Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Music, Pop, Psychedelic

[Album Review] Lab Coast- Walking on Ayr

No Comments 25 September 2014

by Tiana Feng
labcoast

Rating:

Release Date: February 18th, 2014
Label: Mammoth Cave Recordings

Lab Coast revolves around the talents of David Laing and Chris Dadge, who together put out guitar-based pop rock music with some nice hooks. With 16 songs, their latest album ‘Walking on Ayr’ is chock full of it, but you should keep in mind that the tracks average about 2 minutes in length and some of them are a lot shorter than that.

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Country, Folk, Music, Psychedelic

[Album Review] The Schomberg Fair- I Won’t Be Afraid

No Comments 25 September 2014

by Tiana Feng
theschombergfair

Rating:

Release Date: July 8th, 2014
Label: Independent

According to bassist Nathan Sidon, this is the record that The Stromberg Fair have been striving for all along. Not only that, it is so good that they may consider it their swansong. We all hope that isn’t true, but if it is then at least they went off on a high note because ‘I Won’t Be Afraid’ is truly an album to be reckoned with.

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Blues, Canadian, Country, Folk, Music

[Album Review] The Crooked Brothers- Thank You I’m Sorry

No Comments 23 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
thecrookedbrothers

Rating:

Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Label: Transistor 66

On ‘Thank You I’m Sorry’ the trio known as The Crooked Brothers embellish their rootsy folk music with the more urban sounds of rock, blues jazz and funk. These “rural” and “city” forms of music form a sort of dichotomy which is best illustrated by contrasting the song “Organs on Demand”, with its urbane spoken word poetry set against a funky blues rhythm, to the likes of “Kennedy”, with its acoustic folk guitars and down home steel guitars.

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Album Reviews, Canadian, Electronic, Electropop, Music, R&B/Hiphop

[Album Review] Kinnie Starr- From Far Away

No Comments 22 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
kinniestarr

Rating:

Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Label:Aporia Records

Kinnie Starr’s new album ‘From Far Away’ has an overall pleasing cohesiveness to it, but there are really three distinct styles in play here. Five of the ten tracks feature Starr’s brand of spoken word music (“hip hop aggro groove” according to some) which we’ve become familiar with on such albums as ‘Anything’. On the other hand, “Summer Day”, “From Far Away” and “I Don’t Love You” are examples of the breezy pop we heard on Starr’s last album ‘A Different Day’. Finally, there’s “Touch the Sky” and “It’ll Be Fine” which are refreshingly au courant with their electrofolk vibes. It’s not as if your ears pick up a jarring change in tone from one song to the next, so the three styles don’t exactly clash, but they do each require a different standard of appreciation.

Let’s take the spoken word tracks first. I resist using the term “rap” because that carries with it certain preconceptions that Starr, for the most part, manages to defy. “The First Time”, for example, has a rock/funk rhythm as opposed to more conventional hip hop. Furthermore, the narrative is mostly sung, and when Starr does use spoken word she does so in her own voice – she does not affect the sound of traditional urban rappers. When it comes to using her own voice (sometimes even in French), the same can be said, more or less, of the four other spoken word tracks. However, she does comes off sounding a little too much like MIA on “Save Our Waters”,  and Ja$e El Nio’s contribution is both trite and unnecessary.

The ‘A Different Day’ songs are charming enough with their twee She & Him stylings. And granted they have a subtle artistry that grows on you with repeated listen, but the bottom line is that they are too lightweight to do Starr’s obvious talent any credit. “Touch the Sky” and “It’ll Be Fine”, by way of contrast, showcase her considerable abilities as a modern songwriter, arranger and singer with their quirky beats and her idiosyncratic quavering vocals. They put Starr in a league with such current luminaries as St. Vincent.

Hip hop/rap has been around for well over 30 years now, so there is nothing really inherently new or startling about it. Starr is unquestionable very good at urban rhythms and spoke word stylings, but it is actually unfortunate that she has such a predilection for that genre because the balance of the music on ‘From Far Away’ stands as evidence that she is capable of something better – she could easily be an innovator, breathing fresh air into an increasingly stale musical landscape.

Album Reviews, Canadian, Hardcore, Metal, Music

[Album Review] USA Out of Vietnam- Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes

No Comments 19 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

usaoutofvietnam

Release Date: May 5th, 2014
Label: New Damage Records / Aurora Borealis

‘Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes’ is an impressive effort, to say the least. Recorded at Montreal’s renowned Hotel2Tango with a gaggle of guest musicians, the album is a richly layered cornucopia of musical sounds. It’s progressive drone metal, but that’s a label that is more limiting than illuminating.

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Music, Pop, Psychedelic

[Album Review] Smash Boom Pow- Do You Feel?

No Comments 18 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
smash

Rating:

Release Date: June 20th, 2014
Label: Independent

Vancouver’s Smash Boom Pow embrace a variety of styles – alternative power pop, psychedelic fuzz, hard rock and British glitter rock, to name just a few – but there is no uncertainty in their ambition. The trio (drums, bass, guitar/vocals) are clearly just having fun playing whatever they like, without concern for what may be trendy or marketable. This refreshing approach results in an album featuring a nice diversity of sounds, but at the same time establishes an overarching cohesion that is somewhat difficult to define but is clearly attributable to the band’s ethos.

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Music, Pop

[Album Review] The Wilderness of Manitoba- Between Colours

No Comments 18 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
betweencolours

Rating:

Release Date: September 16th, 2014
Label: Pheromone Recordings

The sense of purpose on ‘Between Colours’ is palpable. On this their fourth album, the Toronto-based trio The Wilderness of Manitoba are making conscious and deliberate efforts to expand on their sound by increasing the complexity of their instrumentation. On the closing track “The Movement of Stars” they hit the mark beautifully with the use of time signature changes, layered guitars and some trippy keyboards. Unfortunately, however, on most of the songs the conventional song structures and less than memorable lyrics simply don’t match the band’s ambitions.

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Album Reviews, Canadian, Electronic, Electropop, Music, Pop

[Album Review] Hush Pup- Waterwings

No Comments 18 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

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Rating:

Release Date: September 25th, 2014
Label: Legwarmer Records

The album ‘Waterwings’ opens with the delicate wash of synths followed by the ethereal sounds of Ida Maidstone’s breathy vocals. You think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Maybe you have. Dream pop heaven, that is. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Garage, Music

[Album Review] Death From Above 1979- The Physical World

No Comments 16 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

dfa1979

Rating:

Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Label: Last Gang Records

Ten years is one hell of a long time to wait for a second album but the faithful never gave up and they’ve finally been rewarded – Death From Above 1979 has finally put out the follow up to their 2004 groundbreaker ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine’. In all those years they haven’t lost a step – Jesse Keeler still crushes your spine with his blistering bass and Sebastien Grainger’s yowling vocals retain their scorn as he pounds out a mean beat. Yes, DFA 79 are back and they sound as good as ever. But wait, that’s a problem, isn’t it?  It’s like a movie sequel – being just as good as the first is not enough, it has to somehow push further, do one better, to be considered worthy. I’m afraid so. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Music

[Album Review] West My Friend- When the Ink Dries

No Comments 13 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
westmyfriend

Rating:

Release Date: March 6th, 2014
Label: Grammar Fight Records

West My Friend are the quintessential Victoria band. They are friendly, personable, well-educated, liberal-minded, funny, environmentally conscious and they lean towards indie folk. And then there’s that je ne sais quoi – the thing that sets them apart, that makes them unique – let’s call it their quirkiness.

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Blues, Canadian, Country, Jazz, Music, Pop

[Album Review] Petunia- Inside of You

No Comments 07 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

petunia

Rating:

Release Date: July 21, 2014
Label: Trapline

Petunia is a bizarre and mysterious character. I cannot determine his real name, but I do know that he is originally from rural Quebec and is now based in Vancouver, although he seems to have spent time in almost every corner of the country (both Toronto and Fredericton claim him as a former resident, just as examples). What I do know is that he’s an entertainer – I mean in the old-school sense of someone who sings anything, plays anything, does anything in the name of entertainment. He’s Buffalo Bill Cody, he’s P.T. Barnum, he’s Ed Sullivan and he’s a carnival sideshow barker. He wants to take you go on a wild ride with his album ‘Inside of You’, so step right on up, folks. 

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Music, Pop

[Album Review] The Wooden Sky- Let’s Be Ready

No Comments 06 September 2014

by Tiana Feng
thewoodensky

Rating:

Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Label: Chelsea Records

It’s been 2 years since The Wooden Sky released the beautiful folk album Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun. Since then, Gavin Gardiner built himself a home studio out of a garage in his backyard, which is why it’s perfectly fitting that a photo of spot on Dundas West would make the cover of Let’s Be Ready.

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Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Folk, Music

[Album Review] Sunfields- Habitat

No Comments 04 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan
sunfields

Rating:

Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Label: Independent

‘Habitat’ by Montreal’s Sunfields sounds, at least superficially, like a mixtape made by a university kid in the 1970’s who still misses the ’60’s but has warmed up to the country folk sounds of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. There’s the odd Beatles flash-back but the harmonica, steel guitars and organ are all touchstones of that late ’70’s southern California sound. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Electropop, Folk, Music, Pop, Singer/songwriter

[Album Review] Valery Gore- Idols in the Dark Heart

1 Comment 02 September 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan

valerygore

Rating:

Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Label: Independent

Valery Gore has always been enjoyable and has proven her ability to craft a solidly listenable song. Now however, after spending four years bringing her third album to fruition, Gore takes a huge step forward with a work that displays both greater lyrical maturity and musical complexity. She, in fact, stands poised to earn her place in the pantheon of critically acclaimed contemporary female singer-songwriters.  Fortunately for us, along the way she hasn’t forgotten that her primary job is to entertain. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Music, Pop, Singer/songwriter, Soul

[Album Review] Cold Specks- Neuroplasticity

No Comments 02 September 2014

by Tiana Feng
Layout 1

Rating:

Release Date: August 26th, 2014
Label: Arts & Crafts

A month ago, Cold Specks played a very sold-out show at The Drake Hotel. Front woman Al Spx took to the stage, acting mostly as lead singer as opposed to double duties as a guitarist. This allowed the singer to put her full energy on her awe-inspiring vocals that could fill a theatre. Continue Reading

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