Monday, March 30, 2009

The Last of the February Gems: RPM 09 finds Part 5

Hey Hey, It's been a fun month of listening to hastily recorded albums while promoting my own hastily recorded album, but the fun's got to end at some point. The fact that out of 70 albums produced by (mostly) amateurs this February I found 16 or so that I can heartily endorse is quite an accomplishment really. This last set includes a couple that I concede are good but are not really up my alley in terms of my tastes, which are pretty idiosyncratic and snotty I admit. I can be totally insufferable when talking about music and tend to venomously hate many acts that most people tend to enjoy and praise. So there are a couple of albums here that I can't honestly say moved me much but they are definitely worth checking out and I can sense that an audience is out there for them, probably a much bigger audience then mine really, maybe I'm just jealous..

Vegan Porn's album "To The Animals... May We Be Forgiven?" didn't grab me much the first time I clicked their link but that was after a few hours of RPM browsing and I was probably at my limit by that point. At the RPM listening party Elling recommended I give Vegan Porn another chance and I'm glad I did. A lot of snarky fun, a lot of catchy hooks and many nice details are found on this disc. I find them sorta reminiscent of a less ephemeral Gorky's Zygotic Mynci or a more toned down Spooky Ruben, those are both terribly inaccurate comparisons but it's real late at night and my mind is drawing blank. This kinda brand of quirky indie pop is not something I'm terribly well versed in, but if you want to you can take my inability to name appropriate bands to compare them to as a sign of their desirable originality. Standout tracks for me include "Fish In Your Stew" with the singers demanding tone in the chorus of "somethings gotta die for you to live" pushing the right button for me, and the upbeat number "Your Cat's Piece of Steak". Fun catchy pop with a certain bizarrely slick lo-fi'edness to the production with cheap drum machines and close double tracked vocals and everything well balanced and well considered in the mix. It's good stuff that keeps growing on me.

St Brendan's Champions are a pretty descent acoustic indie rocker act that's well produced, well performed and reasonably engaging. The lead singer (Either Brad Madden or Chris Clarke, I don't know who does what in this duo) has a really strong voice and summons the needed enthusiasm to keep the material bouncy and streamlined. The songs are little on the generic side and stick to that form of working class indie rock that's not particularly uncommon nowadays and is something I feel woefully inadequate talking about since I usually avoid that kinda Joel Plaskett/Sam Roberts/Wilco-y plaintive singer-songwriter, acoustic rock stuff. But this is done well and when the songs avoid wordy excesses and genre manipulations and focus more on the singers voice it does really well Like in songs "Fire Ready" and "Risk Reward Girl". Anyway, They'll do well I'm sure.

Sluts on Sluts album "Help Me With The Missiles" is a fun noise festival in league with Boris or Godflesh or Merzbow. The songs ride on muffled drum thrashings in a fog of toasted distortion and static with moody old keyboards and buzzed out screams drifting in out. Creepy samples of amateur porn, shitty talk show hosts, 911 calls and crying babies float on top of the grisly buzzed out audio gravy like white bits of congealed fat. The sound is thick and intimidating but the blasts come and go quickly and the album retains a slightly lighter air that entertains more then it punishes. It's a brisk but very worthwhile audio buzz spectacle I recommend.

Local Blogger and CHMR radio host Dashiell Brown put out an album (called "Of a Time") of experimental electronic and keyboard music under the name Circuit Tree for the RPM. He whined at me to review it and I held off reviewing it mostly out of spite (I don't take no Damn Requests!). But it's actually pretty descent, there is some very nice use of textures and the songs flow in dreamy surreal ways. It reminds me of some vintage Family Fodder releases and classic Rhino Records weirdness. Dashiell doesn't really sing above a whisper throughout the album but his voice is mostly inoffensive and gentle. The Lyrics are simple confessionals and are delivered in a sincere way, but they are pretty weak and don't really inspire or transport the listener anywhere as interesting as the sounds do. The soundscapes do better when they aren't beat driven, the canned drum sounds mixed with spacey soundscapes in "Man-made Trash Floating in Orbit" comes across like X-Files soundtrack reject. But the album is mostly tasteful and has a certain understated charm to it.

A few Notable Albums I'm not going to do a full review of:

Philosophy Of Bees - "Good Luck in Italy": Very nice little album of piano instrumentals. I fell asleep to it when I gave it a listen (It was 4 am). But it's very pleasant and very nice.

Jordan Young - "Unspoken Rules and Distance": I sing on the second half of "Bob Ross Painting" that's all you really have to listen to there. (burn!)
Les ENFANTS TERRIBLES - "'B' is for Bedlam": whole album recorded in the last 12 hours of February. Fun, kinda horrible, but fun.

Patch - "dot matrix with stereo sound": They didn't upload the album and it's not for sale anywhere but I've heard a couple of tracks from it and they are awesome! If anyone finds a copy, make me a copy of it. (edit: nevermind here it is! I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet but it is on my shortlist)

Ditto for Black Molly I have only heard a couple of tracks off her new album she didn't upload it and now she's gallivanting around the Country with the Burning Hell. What a Punk!

Anyway, That it for me and the RPM this year. Until the next one it's business as usual, I gotta make some money. Cheers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

February Gems: RPM 09 finds Part 4

I continue my hand picking of the bountiful 2009 St. John's RPM harvest with "Varelse or Raman?" by Bobby Young, a total unknown to me here in town. Apparently the music was inspired by the classic young adult sci-fi novel "Enders Game" but I haven't examined the lyrics closely enough to comment on that, plus I haven't read Enders Game in 15 years and ain't nobody paying me to do research for these reviews so I'll leave it up to you the reader to tell what relates to what and I'll get back to talking about what this album sounds like. "Varelse or Raman?" is a gentle loop based collection of mostly acoustic based instrumentals that move and change through the building up of layers and layers of more loops and their eventual release. I get a lo-fi Beirut meets Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells kinda vibe from it thats very pleasant and engaging for the casual listener. Choirs of hushed voices sneak up on you while layers of strummed ukulele and accordion breath in and out in sunny summer day atmospheres. It's a refreshing and untaxing listening experience that also rewards close scrutiny if your feeling in the mood for that.

The 6 Fort Waldegrave (a musical collective that lives at 6 Fort Waldegrave street I assume) have the best concept out of any concept album I've heard in this years RPM. On their RPM album "Long Night on Camp Blood" All the songs are directly inspired by the classic slasher movie "Friday the 13th" some songs are direct references to scenes from the movie and some are meant to by played over certain scenes as a sort of alternative soundtrack. Written and recorded in about two weeks it has the trademark shambolic off the cuff feeling you would normally associate with RPM participates, but this one is recorded well and just oozes good times and the sounds of a group of friends having a blast making ridiculous songs all off the cuff. I especially like the stand out rocker "Kevin Bacon Gets an Arrow Through his Neck" and slightly atonal choir of album closer "Chick Gets an Axe In The Face", They have a knack for song titles that SUPERGOD! appreciates.

Pilot to Bombardier is quite a tasty but subdued offering from Byran Power of the Subtitles fame. The delicate sparse arrangements are very reminiscent of Smog or Red House Painters with the added close double tracked vocals sort of like Elliot Smith or Sam Beam. His voice is warm and understated and gives off a easy going but world weary charm. The production is very delicate and nuanced, highlighting the quiet mood of each song perfectly. I especially like the nod to the theme of "Chariots of Fire" in the vibraphone solo in "Out of Tune" with it's chorus of "I spent hours matching your Harmony, Yet it was all out of tune". This maybe my favorite of the rpm albums I've heard so far just for it's consistency and the perfection in establishing a mood. It is a rich offering that qualifies itself as a perfect Sunday evening disc, it's like a warm blanket and a cup of chai tea on a cold day. That's the most womanly sentence I've ever written, just forget I said that. It's a good album.

Jack Betty is the latest stage name of Boobie Browne or Darren Browne (another bloody Subtitler) as he is actually named. Under Jack Betty Darren has put out "Soundtrack for a Western" which is not a very creative album title, but regardless is a fine lo-fi collection of mostly instrumentals (I'll do him a favor and not bring up the quality his spanish singing on "Mamacita") all of a blue grass or americana variety. The songs are fairly simple but still carry some of that Ennio Moricone epic scope and dusty dessert atmosphere. Darren or Jack or whatever you wanna call him carries some fine picking chops in them hands and while the recordings are unpolished and leave clear traces of room and surroundings they were recorded, this does nothing to distract from the fine playing present on the album and in fact greatly helps capture the personalities of the players give the disc a homey and very human feeling to it (whatever that means). Anyway, it's a fine picking affair to be had.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

February Gems: RPM 09 finds Part 3

Mopey Mumble Mouse are local favorites of mine and RPM veterans. This year they came out with there latest 37 minute weirdness odyssey "The Wrath of Least Persistence" and it's by far their best album yet. The tracks alternate between extended jam outs to short bouts of apocalyptica. All the members take over on songwriting and frontman responsibilities so it's more of a mixed bag then last years, at the same time they come across as more of an actual band in this years album with Steve Ailward's drumming totally replacing all traces of drum machine. The bands gleeful shambolicness is well presented and the voices are much better mixed this time. Each member has at least one classic track on this album; Curtis Kilfoy's vocal performance on "Forever and Ever, Amen" is exemplary and cathartic and Tom Davis gets his tender piano ballad "Grey Afternoon" that really delivers the Syd Barrett fractured pop sensibility and is the best showcase I've heard yet for Tom's fragile tragic voice. Bart Peirson (who graces one of the funniest back cover photos I've seen in a long time) gets the rock classic we all knew he was capable of in "Vicious Circle" which drips in classic Elevator to Hell/Sabbath riffage and thunder. The Album ends in glorious cascades of spastic audio fuckery in "Hey. Kids." that satisfies in many ways. Good stuff.

Justin Guzzwell is a piano rocker from out Gander way that I'm familiar with through all my strange experiences with Gander musicians. Justin is one of the most intense performers I've ever seen with just an electric piano and drummer. Sometimes the intensity is too much for the little clubs he plays at, but it's just perfect for the RPM challenge. His album "Crooked Roots" is a dynamic avant pop piano stomper that showcases a stylistic vareity that I found a bit absent from his live show. The Creative side of Guzzwell is well on display in songs like the proggy "Mornings that Shake Me" the groovy trip hop of "Transparent Profile" and plan trippy "The Empty Quarter" and his high energy ivory punisher "Georgetown Express". Pop hooks abound in the tracks "Bossman" and "Dependable" and album closer "Drink Tank" is the proper dosage of reighteous bludgeoning a body needs. The Mastering is unfortunately a little fuzzy and muffled on my copy of the CD (it is all done in a month, somethings can't be helped especially when it's your first album) but the mixing is actually quite full and sometimes the buzzy mastering benefits the rawness of Guzzwell's vocals and piano stabs. A very interesting and hypnotic little disc.

Local indie rockers The Troubletones took February to craft their reverb drenched second full length album "Run, Play, Mate". If you make the effort to look past that hideous album cover you should appreciate it's classic fun 60's garage pop feel, what with the handclaps, tamborines, catchy guitar hooks and very liberal use of cavernous reverb applied throughout. It rare to see a rpm album nail the Phil Spector wall of sound aesthetic as well as these guys. Although their band bio seems to be written from the embarrassingly overblown school of Patrick Molloy bios. I like the simple sensibility of their pop hooks and they know how to be grandiose without being pompous and showy. Anyway, I should try to make an effort to see them live next time they do a show.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jody Richardson

I've been falling behind on my crappy video coverage of "the downtown scene" here is a video I took last Friday of local rock legend Jody Richardson playing a mellow tremolo drenched set with a jazzy horn section.

I love Jody's voice. And I want to steal that guitar.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

February Gems: RPM 09 finds Part 2

Here is part 2 of my series of reviews of outstanding RPM releases that aren't mine. Some of my favorite artists that I know have their album finished (Black Molly, Mopey Mumble Mouse, Justin Guzzwell etc..) still haven't gotten around to uploading it to the Jukebox so I will have to wait until they do before I can write my unsolicited reviews. In the meantime here are some people I can talk about, a couple of them I haven't heard of until today. Click the album covers to here their albums.

Errand Boy the main recording project of Bryan Melanson, is an act getting a good bit of a following in St John's and beyond for his ingenious and stunning recorded work such as last self titled full length album "Errand Boy" (highly recommended). This year he completed a rpm album that changes up the formula a bit, more organic and less sample driven then his previous indie electronica. The textures are rich as always and the songs carefully crafted and structured with more emphasis on atmospherics and meditative spaces. It opens with the quite grand "Ghostride The Relationship" and the songs song flow into each quite naturally throughout. If anything is an issue it's that it flows a bit too smoothly, while the mood pieces are quite rich and tasty there could be a few more distractions and auditory hurdles thrown in throughout to keep the listener from drifting off completely. Still quite a rich audio banquet for a months work.

A familiar face on the downtown scene; solo 12 string instrumentalist Dan Ficken took this February to record his first album "From Tanks to Tractors". It is a nice meditative outing that showcases Dan's lush and nuanced playing, and it also showcases something most people familiar with Dan Fickens work wouldn't expect; that is Dan's singing. I don't think Dan is that used to it either, but his voice is soft and friendly enough that it works. I'm listening to it here at work (I'm also writing this when I should be working, but what odds) and this is an ideal relaxation and ignoring-the-disgusting-office-work-piling-up-and-destroying-your-precious-youth-before-you-ever-really-got-to-enjoy-it disc.

Philippa Gun looks kinda familiar but I'm pretty sure I've never heard or met her before. But her album has some sweet arrangements and she is blessed with quite a nice voice. Her songs are gentle and pastoral in the vein of a more sedated Feist, but her voice doesn't annoy me as much as Feist's does. She does get a bit overly precious with her delivery and lyrics at times but rarely over the line that makes me want to cast her out to the disposal bin with all the Chantal Kreviazuk CD's (ocassionally her voice takes on that kind adult contemporary sheen and that's deffinitely something she should steer clear of if she can help it).

Ryan Taylor is another artist I've never heard of until I randomly clicked his link on the RPM website. Apparently an ex patriot St. John'ser currently in the Alberta way. I gotta say I'm impressed with his album "Transnational Fidelity" (I'm not so impressed with it's title). Being in a familiar category of "one man band recording studio" the arrangements are rich luscious things with tender and vivid guitar work abounding. The album isn't 100% consistent throughout, Ryan's voice being a bit of a bone of contention here and there drifting into whiny white boy singer-songwriter territory, but he more then makes up for this in shear production creativity and musicianship. A nice surprise find.

February Gems: RPM 09 finds Part 1

Well it's March 12th and we're finally able to browse the RPM website to listen to what everyone else in town made over the exceptionally short month of February. This was a record year for the RPM challenge with over a hundred albums (I think, I haven't checked) made in St. John's alone (mine included). So I've been spending a bit of time here and there listening to what's been posted up so far and checking out how the locals fared. And I've found that there have been some damn exceptional participants this year. Lets start with the one I'm listening to now:

Steve Haley's "Two Steps in the Dark". It took me awhile to realize this Steve Haley is same one from local Indie Rockers The Human Soundtrack. To be honest I could never really get into The Human Soundtrack, they had a couple good tunes but something about their delivery always grated me a bit. I have to say I friggin' love "Two Steps in the Dark" this style of dark, down tempo folk is a much better fit for Steve's voice. The songs are lonesome as all hell and are delicately and smartly arranged with subtly roomy acoustic ambiance. The songs ebb and flow with an easy going grace that heightens the unforced dramatic nature of the tunes. Ack! I'm getting all pitchforky here. just give it a listen.

Next let's look at some myspace friends of mine from Mount Pearl am/fm dreams' self titled album. Last years RPM album "How the Aviator sees the Rainbow" gained the obscure Mount Pearl band a good few followers here in town, and they've wasted no time at all in putting out three other full length albums (including this one) since last years RPM. All of them with the same professional quality. They're kind of a 90's nostalgia band in the best possible way, grungy-arsed guitars, big beats, scratchy but lilting vocal harmonies, tight pop hooks with an easy going attitude. The new self titled album is possibly they're strongest yet (I might need more time for it to sink in I've only listened to it once) I especially like the Danielle Poirier fronted track "I wish I never met you" for it's thick sleazy groove and change of pace. "Always the follower" makes great use of some guided by voices dynamics tricks and big arena rock chorus. As far as I know am/fm dreams only appear in record form and don't play shows outside of dismal ol' Mount Pearl. If they ever brought their act into town I know a good few people who would come flocking.

Just by randomly clicking on band names I came across "Pet Legs" a new project of Rebecca Cohoe (of The Subtitles) and Ian Murphy (of some band that I can't remember right now (edit: "Exit Party") ). Pure pop confection of the minimal 80's keyboard variety. Usually that type of thing would send me running in the opposite direction but Pet Legs gets the formula spot on in this one. Strong voices, energetic tempos, catchy hooks all over the place and its the perfect type of project to benefit from the RPM challenge situation. If any more time then a month was spent on the album it would definitely be at risk of over thinking, over producing and needlessly cluttering and compressing the arrangements that happens in 99% of the music in this genre. The arrangements are sparse but the performances are solid and mixes are really full. The biggest complaint I have would probably be the loss of momentum after the spirited first half as the last four or five songs are all in the down tempo ballad mode. But when facing down a four week deadline sequencing almost always gets the short end of the stick (does that metaphor make sense?).

There are a couple of other albums I might've talked about today but I noticed they haven't added themselves to the Jukebox yet. Get off your asses! you lazy punks! I need to scrutinize you haphazard recording efforts and pass unsolicited judgement on you.
More albums being reviewed soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fuck the Fucking Tribute Shows for Fuck's Sake!!!

Man, bloody tribute shows! this town is crazy for fucking tribute shows!First it was Leonard Cohen, which was fine and all, you know I love Leonard and he is Canadian and has played here a couple of times at least, so I didn't mind the occasional tribute to Cohen. But then it became a yearly phenomenon and got really tired. Really really tired..
Then came the Johnny Cash tribute show, and everyone knows I love Johnny, so I was like "Sure whatever, not really an original idea, but Johnny's cool".
Then a week or two later the Bob Dylan tribute came around. And Bob Dylan can go fuck himself, being the untalented egotistical hack that he is. He can go somewhere dark and smother himself in his huge sack of smarmy tuneless banality for all I care. Lord knows I wasn't going to attend that thing.
Then it was the fucking "Bruce Fucking Springsteen's fucking tribute show at the fucking Ship". Good God! Why?!. Miserable frigging Bruce Springsteen? who the frig would go and spend 10 dollars (or was it $15?) of there hard earned money to see friggin locals (many of whom are waaay better songwriters then Bruce Friggin' Springsteen) pay tribute to his phony guttural mewling and obnoxious cheese orchestra?...
Apparently many many people. The tribute ran three bloody consecutive nights and was sold out and less then a year later they did it again!
Since then we've had more Bob Dylan tributes, Fleetwood Mac tributes, Iron Maiden, Lucinda Williams, Sarah Mclaughlin (Bleech!), and now a Townes Van Zant's tribute?. Is the state of the music scene really so bad and so uninspired that we must rely on these obvious money grabs to get people out to shows? Is the St. John's audience really that wary of original acts with original material that the only way to guarantee a large attendance is to put on some showcase where some shitty top 40 icons of the past are praised up by a collection of local talent who could be doing something much better with there time?
Don't bother answering, I already know, I already know.