Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Album Reviews - The Dardanelles, The Once, Tony Benn

Well it's that time of the fortnight again. Time to re-post my reviews from this weeks scope here for your perusal. This week they are all local, all acoustic folk, all self titled debut albums, all pretty good. This weeks Scope is particularly awesome as it is the annual "New Music" issue with an ass load of bands covered and my favorite band in town made the cover. Although I gotta say they could've chose a shot that made them look a bit more active. I think every shot of Andrew Waterman should be of him screaming and covered in blood. Maybe this is just me. Anyway, here are my latest three reviews. enjoy them and check out the links if you can. Always check out my links.

The Dardanelles
The Dardanelles debut self titled album is an taut, dynamic and energetic mix of various strings, squeeze boxes and worldly influences. The Dardanelles are tight. The seven piece folk combo effortlessly weave a dense tapestry of swirling reels and dervishes that they make flow naturally while never letting up on the whirlwind pace. The production is crisp and lush but never overdone and thankfully stripped of any tacky studio trickery and affectations leaving just the raw textures of the instruments and the expert hands guiding them. I'm gonna avoid any talk of "authenticity" or adhering to traditions because frankly I'm the farthest thing you get from an expert on Newfoundland trad music. All I can say is that to me this album reveals a depth of interplay and a relentless energy that can only be experienced at the best kitchen parties and even when mixing in the more exotic foreign material the songs flow naturally and sweetly.

The Once
Geraldine Hollett's voice is an instrument like a deep warm river of sweetness and honey. Thankfully her band The Once know this well and on their debut album have built all the arrangements like a shrine or alter to properly display that lovely instrument. It is an album of tasteful covers; half traditional and half more contemporary (but not obvious) classics, all with strong and somewhat dark narratives that take good advantage Geraldine's theatrical pedigree by pushing the dramatic envelope, the stark a capella reading of "Marguerite" in particular has Geraldine taking on the role of the lead character and full on emoting her emotional breakdown to stirring effect. Their version of Leonard Cohens "Anthem" is stellar. My biggest complaint about the album is the cover. Look at it. It has to be one of the dullest album covers I've ever seen.. Three red rectangles and some Times new roman lettering do not a compelling visual make. Try harder.

Tony Benn
Irish ex-patriot and current local singer-songwriter Tony Benn's new album travels onto a lonesome road with a simple directness and a strong and sorrowful voice. Most of the album is stripped down to just guitar and vocals with occasional band arrangements and female vocal choruses punctuating it at times. The album keeps a sparse and quiet tone throughout with Tony's voice evoking a steady but sad, contemplative quality that draws comparisons to Damien Rice or John Martyn and on songs like "Her Hair Came Down" and "Walk with you" he let's it soar to devastating and beautiful effect. The lyrics are direct and unpretentious but are lacking a little in depth and originality, the simple sentiments in songs like "Please don't say goodbye" don't offer any new insights we haven't heard many times before, but this is a small qualm in an album as perfectly suited for cloudy Sunday listening as this one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vicky-Lou and Brad Power

Hey folks, it's been a pretty quiet weekend for yours truly. I didn't get up to much mischief and I didn't get any real band videographing done either. I did take some video of the Lantern Festival, but I'm gonna sit on it until I have the time to edit it into something or until I have a computer that will do what I need it to do. But I did take some footage of my hero Victor Lewis and his stunt guitarist Brad Power playing a subdued set at The Rose and Thistle last Thursday. It's been awhile since I've seen Vic do his solo set material and it was nice to have Brad there providing the edge and the atmospheres. In this first video we have Victor and Brad doing a pretty upbeat version of the classic murder ballad "Stagger Lee" I'm more used to this version then any other but Vic's version here is not without it's charm.

The next video is of an ambitious cover Vic and Brad worked out for for a 60's French pop song. It's ambitious because Vic and Brad don't speak any French. I can't really tell if the phonetics are correct but it sounds like proper music to my ears.

Also, for all you 7 or 8 regular Throwing Stones readers, in the near future keep your eyes peeled to your RSS feeds for exciting "These Stones are Meant for Throwing" news. It's real exciting, or it might not be. No hints.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Japan Batteries and some Sorcerer

Japan Batteries are a new indie-ish acoustic/electro band that are getting some good buzz around town. Darrell Hopkins is a friendly acquaintance of mine from university who wrote me up to check out his new band and hopefully bring my camera. The band is pretty good I gotta say, Darrell has always been a singer with a warm and engaging presence and I think I was immediately won over by the strobe-light attached to his head..

As a friendly bit of criticism and knowing that they are a really new band I would suggest that Darrell stay a bit further away from that fast paced talk/sing/rap style that brings him dangerously close to Dave Matthews territory. I made a promise that I would shoot a poison dart into the next person I find singing a Dave Matthews cover, so I just felt like I needed to state that bit of rudeness. I like this next song, it's got a good kinda Mark Bragg vibe to it and it reminds me that I also promised I would write more songs with catchy stops and starts. Who did I promise these things to? jesus?

Also during that night I couldn't help sneaking over to CB's to catch "Sorcerer", who I was told were a fun stoner metal band, and it had been a long time since I'd seen a good stoner metal band, and they were a lot of fun. They played in complete darkness as you can see (or not see) here, and I'm not sure but they may have only played covers that night. I'm not sure if this song is a cover, but I think it is. If anybody can tell me one way or another please do.

AE Bridger at Night Music

AE Bridger returned to scene in grand form after a few months absence to concentrate on school and whatnot. Armed with a new set of songs he took to the job of hosting this months Night Music at the Ship with two full drum sets, a full time keyboardist, and the usual vast array of effects pedals and battery of guitar pyrotechnics. I took a bunch of videos but tragically two of my favorites (one of which was 19 minutes! and the other was the only video where I start taking the video from the audience perspective and end up filming the band from behind the keyboards I was jamming on) were destroyed by my computer (which an asshole to me constantly). But never fear here are three fresh AE Bridger videos of a shorter variety from that same show.
Nothing made me happier this week then watching AE play "Smelly Tongues" by my heroes The Residents-

This one ends with an impressive percussion jam.

And here are two swell new tunes I medley'd together

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New CD Reviews in The Scope + Fiery Furnaces and Swords

Well the new issue is out and they ran a couple of my CD Reviews this week. But I have a couple of other ones I did for them that they never ran so I figure I'd stick em' up here. In other Scope related news, Elling got me to conduct an interview with Banjo picker and worldly music collaborator Jayme Stone, he's playing in Bowring Park on Saturday as part of the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival. Everyone should go check him out, you can read the interview here. Anyway, here are some reviews:
The Dead Weather and Precious Fathers ran in the Scope and Fiery Furnaces and Swords did not.

The Dead Weather
The debut album of Jack White's new supergroup/side project The Dead Weather is a bit of a mixed bag. Featuring members of The Kills, The Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age. Jack White's duties take an uncharacteristic step away from the spotlight by (mostly) sticking with the drums while backing up singer Alison Mosshart, although he is the producer and co-writes 7 of the songs so the focus is never completely away from him. There is plenty of swagger and bravado soaked into this album and if nothing else Jack White as a producer is a master of getting guitars to sound wickedly bestial, but here the riffs miss just as often as they hit. The greasy high plains groove of "60 feet tall" and the oppressive grind of "New Pony" attack the body in just the right way while Rote rockers like "Treat me like your Mother" and "I Cut Like a Buffalo" come across as an uncomfortable fit of Rage against the Machine and Black Mountain. Bottom line, The high points of this album compare favorably to most of White Stripes catalog but the low points reek of "disposable side project"

Precious Fathers
Alluvial Fan
Vancouver based instrumental band Precious Fathers' new album "Alluvial Fan" is a dense soup of cavernous guitars, grandiose swells and dramatic dynamics, but it never strays too far from a warm emotional center. The band constructs it's songs from slow tidal crescendos and wide screen cinema-scope releases, always with a steady driving pulse behind it moving it forward. While the album is decidedly on the introspective and meditative side of the Tortoise/Do Make Say Think canon of epic post-rock, the album never feels morose or overly melancholic. It's hard to describe the sound without using the word "cinematic" or imagining wide open vistas while you listen to it, the songs go for gradual understated shifts as opposed to sudden shocks and if there is a major problem with the record it's that it lacks the immediacy and the show-stopping technical showiness to grip the listener fully on the first listen. This album takes time to fully digest and reveal itself but if you're the patient type of listener then it's well worth the effort.

The Fiery Furnaces
I'm Going Away
After the success of 2004's "Blueberry Boat", a strange, and catchy pop opus that won over the hearts of hipsters and music geeks all over, The Fiery Furnaces have spent the last 5 years steadily releasing albums that perversely try to alienate themselves from their audience. Although I admired their willingness to experiment wildly and to keep challenging their fan base's expectations, I just couldn't actually find much to enjoy in the albums. "I'm Going Away" is an excellent return to form. In this album the songs come first and formost and the band hasn't sounded as natural and happy in ages. While there is plenty of weirdness and progressive flourishes present, this time none of it comes across as a hollow gimmick. Matthew Friedberger's trademark excessive wordplay is thankfully reigned (a bit) and the songs are allowed to have proper Hooks(!). The Friedberger sibling have finally stopped being so concerned with the avant-garde and made an album that is actually charming and enjoyable from start to finish.

album: [Monument of] Swords
This is the type of music I like to listen to on headphones while walking around a Wal~Mart the day before Mothers day or while waiting in outpatients at St Claires for five hours. The kind of music that expresses and transposes your epic existential disgust for societies most dehumanizing institutions while it hypnotizes you in it's oppressive waves of panoramic, Teutonic brutality and incomprehensible screaming about mythological warriors. This is metal but it's not very easy to headbang to. The riffs are slooooow and relentlessly churning in a thick gravy of dissonance with only brief clean strummed respites to break it up. [Monument of] SWORDS gets the formula of epic discontent just right for those days you'd sooner push thumbtacks into your skull then go to Services Canada.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Another weekend at Holdsworth court = Mopey, Local Tough, Pathological Lovers, Mudflowers, Cyanides, Justin Guzzwell

This weekend I was just itching to test out the new camera further and during this weekend pretty much all my favorite bands were playing simultaneously. I had to make some hard decisions and try to make the best of everything. I took a shitload of videos. I pretty much did nothing else yesterday except edit and upload 9(!) new videos for you all to enjoy.

First of all I was out at CBTG's on Friday and got a couple of good Local Tough videos, including this one which I think is my new favorite live video ever, just for visceral shirtless carnage and audience participation.

They also played some new material which is kinda rare for them.

But it was on Friday night that I went totally OCD on videographing everything that I could. I decided to go to Mopey Mumble Mouses CD release party at Distortion. There I got to see Justin Guzzwell's new band "Justin Guzzwell and the Crooks" and they were really good, the edition of Brad Morgan on bass made Justin's intense ivory punishing live show 10 times more palatable. Justin has an unique sense of structure to his progressions and an interesting sense of dynamics. Here's one of my favorite songs of his "Mornings that Shake Me"

and this spirited one: "Dependable"

I then snuck across the deck to catch The Mudflowers at CBTG's, but unfortunately only caught the last two songs. They remain on the top of my list of bands to properly give blog treatment to. In this video they are playing their sweat covered encore to a packed CB's crowd at the end of their second full set that day (they also played an all ages show early that day). It's a pretty good Joy Division cover but I would've preferred to film one of their originals. I will keep my eye out for them in the meantime.

Meanwhile back at Distortion my friend Jordan Young was doing his scronky Cyanides thing that he does, so I caught him on digital film doing a short new one called "Sacrificial Seal"

I then snuck back into CB's and caught The Pathological Lovers doing probably the best version of Bonnie Tyler's only classic "Total Eclipse of The Heart". The audience was hella into it as you can hear. My only issue was with this giant motionless jerk guy in the front row whose head was directly in the way of my view of Jody Richardson. I had to extend my arm way out to the side to get Jody in the frame at all, so the video is kinda shaky (I tried correcting it much as I could). Being an overly tall guy who likes to get at the front of the audience myself, it may seem like I am being a hypocrite swearing at this other tall guy, but this dude was clearly not enjoying himself and was just standing there without moving or doing anything besides drinking and blocking everyones view. I wanted to chuck something at his head so badly!

Then of course I went back to Distortion and watched Mopey Mumble Mouse perform for the first and last time as a 7 piece band as they tore through songs from their new album "I Am Happy Being Nothing". I was quite the show and it was their third full set that day, Yet there was no fatigue showing at all and this set was in fact much more andrenilized then their second set I watched early that evening. Here is the Theatrical Ballad "Compassion Comes From The Barrel of a Gun"

and here is a service industry themed hardcore stomper of their's "Food Fair" (I'm sorry but the audio for this one turned out kinda crap)

Anyway, fun times to be had for all who look for it.