Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Roots Music Movement

There’s been so much awesome music flooding my iPod these days, that I feel I have to tackle a couple in one post, just to get it all out there.

First, I want to give a shout-out to Saskatoon band
Deep Dark Woods . I caught their CD release party for Winter Hours in Saskatoon at the beginning of March and I must say, I was very impressed. Like, my neck was sore from all the rocking out the next day, impressed. In accordance with my Neko obsession, DDW sits squarely in the alt country genre - which has been dominating my playlists of late. Dark, brooding pedal steel, intensely rural lyrics and wistful harmonies all culminate in this sound-like-longing that is both ominous and playful. Nice touch, boys. Winter Hours is their sophomore album and picks up where 2007 effort Hang Me, Oh Hang Me left off... two years has made a difference: their sound is stronger, more polished and the lyrical content more impressive. Plus, anyone that can take a pedal steel, mandolin, organ and acoustic guitar (among a plethora of other instruments), and still rock out a neck-achingly dancable show, is fine by me. As the momentum behind them builds, I would suggest one earmark these guys as a band to watch over the next little while. They embark on their cross-country CD release tour on April 2nd, and you’d be insane to miss catching a show .

You can pick up their album
Winter Hours at any stop on their tour, or Online (for purchase or download)

Next on the list are Regina rockers The Lazy MKs . Apparently I’ve had a hard-on for pedal steel lately, and this band certainly fuels my fire. I fell for them after hearing the post-rock, upright bass, distorted steel sound of the track 
Pakowki. It’s a song to drink whiskey to. In tight pants. The driving rhythms keep you tottering on an edge that might not be so bad to fall off of, but they never let you quite get there. I honestly wish the track’s run time was a teeny bit longer, but I suppose that’s what the repeat button is for. Oh, did I mention this is a lyrics-free zone? It's purely instrumental shoegaze roots music to get you switched on. The live show in Saskatoon featured a guest vocalist that really rounded-off their instrumental EP sound and made the whole experience into a sexy-intimate one. This is the part where I stop writing before it turns to girl-crush gibberish.

You can grab the EP
A Field Guide to the Lazy MKs Online … or if you happen to be in the Regina area during April and May, they will be playing a couple of shows at The Exchange and Bushwakkers where you can pick up this delightful little gem of prairie magic.

(Man... I really like hyphens today)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On Neko Case, and Natural Disasters

New Pornographers’ and Sadies alumni Neko Case has officially blown my mind… again. My first solo introduction to this brilliant artist was 2002’s Blacklisted – which, fyi, is still a regular on my iPod playlist. Until that album, I was in fervent country-lovin’ denial. Fast-forward seven years, and we have the evolution that is Middle Cyclone. Swaddled in the imagery of the forces of nature, Middle Cyclone takes you roughly by the wrist, only to stroke your face gently: Neko’s voice at once both forceful and beautiful. While it’s certainly drawn a dozen of the same comparisons, I can’t help but think of her decision to write material that revolves around forces of nature as a metaphor for her versatile and striking voice (she references herself multiple times as a tornado – way to point out the obvious Chels).

Aside from her amazing vocal capabilities, Neko took some liberties with recording that add to the atmosphere of the album. Recorded in a barn, careful listeners (with good headphones) can catch the occasional animal sound, which never really sounds out of place. Add to that the abandoned piano orchestra and 30 minute frog/pondscapes, and you have a wonderfully playful dyi sound that suits Ms. Case just fine.

The music box opening of “The Next Time You Say Forever” serves like a relic of girlhood days gone by; a reclamation of sorts that had me nodding my head in agreement. At just under two minutes, it’s easily one of the most solid tracks on the album… it’s not everyday that you see a soul laid bare so quickly.

The next stand out for me is easily “Magpie to the Morning” . On the first listen, I couldn’t help but draw comparison of the sound to Canadian folk-chanteuse Sarah Harmer’s work, who I later discovered contributed backing vocals on the album. A tribute to the versatility of her work, this song seems just as at home on Middle Cyclone as it would on Harmer’s I’m a Mountain. The heartbreakingly ethereal vocals are of the rare breed that I find have me tearing up while singing along, evocative of a point in our lives where we have all wished that we had appreciated the whimsicality of childhood just a little bit more. Don't let this fading summer pass you by/Don't let this fading summer pass you by

With no hint of ever planning on looking back at her past and laughing, “The Pharaohs" is a harsh glare at a tumultuous relationship of heartbreak, infidelity and the path to becoming jaded about what a partner is supposed to be like. The idea of a “Fairytale love” and the desire for her “Prince” (or Pharaoh, if you will) is shattered by the reality that the only people that really exist in life are men: who cheat, deceive and leave you wanting. Not that I think this is Neko’s clarion call of man-hating; rather, it serves as her dismissal of the unreality of idealized love - Like the wanting in the movies and the hymns – while simultaneously underlining her desire for it; her struggle for balance. That fact that she turns down the vocals for this track really only serves to strengthen the message. I can’t get enough of it.

All in all, Neko comes out, sword blazing and surprisingly cuts you with only a pound of pressure. An amazingly retrospective look at all the things that we've lost by making the choices we've made... I'm sure this will be on my iPod as long (if not longer) than Blacklisted.

You can grab a copy of this amazing album at most music stores (especially your local ones, as Case's website urges) or on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In honour of abstinence-only lobby day...

I would like to share with you some Ani.

Youtube - Promiscuity

Promiscuity is nothing more than travelling: there's more than one way to see the world. And some of us like to stick close to home and some of us are Columbus, what can I say?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hot Panda and other tepid Ursidae

Hot Panda is a little gem from Edmonton I'd recently discovered - much to my chagrin, as I've been in the city a full 8 months now - and subsequently developed a huge, raging girl-crush on. I managed to catch their CD release party at the Pawn Shop on Whyte in February (happy Vday! Yummy!) and was entranced by the energy they put in the live show. And what else can a twitterpated twenty-something do after getting riled up by a sexy live show? Buy the album and listen to it on repeat once she made it home, of course!

Cold Hands/Chapped Lips Easily my favourite track on the album, Cold Hands/Chapped Lips leads you along a path of aesthetically pleasing harmonica, hand claps and relatable lyrics, and then jolts you from that reverie with some fun noise. All while retaining the ability to be entirely dancable. It's the hook, baby. Plus, I loved the Sherwood Park reference: stay classy, guys.

Whale Headed Girl A little eerie, it took a few listens before Whale Headed Girl got under my skin. But, there it is. Fantastic keyboard, a whale call persuaded from guitar distortion, and pretty harmonies. I highly suggest a few spins.

Check these guys out at SXSW or one of their many other stops through Canada and the US this spring. You won't regret it. You can find their album Volcano... Bloody Volcano on itunes, from their label Mint Records or at fine music stores.