Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Experimental, Music

[Album Review] Five Alarm Funk- Abandon Earth

No Comments 18 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 7th, 2014
Label: Independent

The last thing that occurs to you when first listening to ‘Abandon Earth‘ is that there is any coherent theme to this barely bridled mayhem. The album is an exhilarating but frightening rollercoaster ride through funk, heavy metal, gypsy, punk, prog rock, afro-beat and many other musical styles just too numerous to list. This is such high octane insanity that you’d never believe there was actually a method to the madness. But there is — this is actually a concept album, which relates the sci fi tale of a demented ice cream vendor who laces his wares with drugs and then takes his victims on a psychedelic trip to the centre of the earth. Whoa, hang on, that sounds … nuts. Maybe we should just say that there is madness to their madness.

Five Alarm Funk have been around for ten years now, and in that time they have evolved from a more traditional-sounding funk band into something heavier, darker and weird, something that is all their own. They make full use of everything at their disposal – drums, guitars, brass, sax and percussion —  to gleefully whip their listeners into a frenzy. It is still a carnival, but where it was once a romp in the fun-house it is now a riot at the freak show.

The album opens to the chiming of an ice cream truck, which gives you a bit of a shiver because you know that it’s ominous, like the singing of a nursery rhyme at the beginning of a horror movie. Then there is a brief bit of vaguely Balkan-sounding guitar work before the flood-gates open and the band hits you with all that they’ve got — and this is a 9-piece band, so that’s quite a bit. When lead singer (and drummer), Tayo Branston, delivers the narrative he does so with a menacing growl that one normally associates with death metal, putting you on notice that this is no walk in the park. This is a dizzying, high-energy thrill ride, but it has a sinister edge.

Once the band unleashes their sonic barrage on “We All Scream” they never let up. ‘Abandon Earth‘ is impressively creative with its unique concoction of sounds, but it’s relentless and it’s intense. So intense, in fact, that when the band plays this material live they make sure to intersperse it with some of their older, less demanding songs.

However, for all of that, Five Alarm Funk’s music remains rhythmic, bouncy and infectious. The story they tell on this record may involve catastrophe, fear and destruction, but at the end of the day it is still a party.

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

[Album Review] Animalia- Mouth Full of Teeth

No Comments 13 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 4th, 2014
Label: Killjoy Collective

I read recently somewhere that electronic music is currently a creative wasteland. Maybe so, but there are still some acts around worthy enough to restore its good name. Case in point, Animalia (a.k.a. Jill Krasnicki), who may be favourably compared to the likes of Goldfrapp, St.Vincent, and even Bjork. None of those are “electronic artists”, you say? Precisely. In emulating the example set by these excellent female songwriters Krasnicki deftly avoids the pitfall of placing too heavy an emphasis on sound effects and gimmicks at the expense of solid song structure. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Garage, Listen, Music, Psychedelic

[Album Review] Surprise Party- Heart of Love

No Comments 12 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: March 17th, 2014
Label: Independent

Man, I hate it when that happens. I get an e-mail from Tiana which reads “Winnipeg psychedelic goth-lords Surprise Party”, and when I head over to their Bandcamp site I find it splattered with satanic images, including a particularly gory Last Supper scene. Hey, I’m down for anything, so I sharpen my butcher knife, grab a frisky sacrificial lamb and head on down to the party. But, whoa, imagine my surprise, this is a California beach party and here I am dressed like a druid! Fortunately, no one here cares what you look like. I just smile and quickly hide the lamb behind my back (I strongly suspect these guys support PETA). Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Hardcore, Music, Punk

[Album Review] Fucked Up- Glass Boys

No Comments 12 July 2014

by Tiana Feng


Release Date: June 3rd, 2014
Label: Arts & Crafts/Matador Records

Back in December, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Damian Abraham, Jonah Falco and Sandy Miranda at Candle Recording Studio for a Stereogum feature story. Abraham had discussed with us his internal conflicts, what it’s like to be a dad and also a member of a band with a certain level of fame yet still being accepted in the punk scene. These are all internal conflicts that fuel the energy found in the band’s latest effort Glass Boys. Continue Reading

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

[Album Review] Greg Smith and the Bad Dreamers- Dreamers

No Comments 12 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: April 14th, 2014
Label: Independent

Right from the start ‘Dreamers’ makes you feel at home. The way Greg Smith delivers the opening line to “Loyalist Parkway” with a quaver and that distinctive rolling of his r’s leaves no doubt that he is a Canadian singer and this is Canadian music. He and his band, the Bad Dreamers, breeze through a set of solid songs that are as comfortingly familiar as a backyard barbeque complete with some Molsons and a few of your hoser friends. This latest project by the Weakerthans’ bass player is a collection of folk rock numbers which are charming and fun, if somewhat undemanding. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Experimental, Music, Pop

[Album Review] Wunderstrands- Wunderstrands

No Comments 06 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: May 29th, 2014
Label: Independent

Wunderstrands‘ is the self titled debut from the duo of Mara Pellerin and Brad Kilpatrick. They are both members of the Newfoundland indie rock outfit Gramercy Riffs. It is unclear whether this is to be considered a “side project”, but it is certainly a marked departure. Pellerin and Kilpatrick eschew any notion of pop commercialism in favour of a delicate, ethereal sound. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Hardcore, Music, Punk

[Album Review] Greys- If Anything

No Comments 03 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Label: Buzz Records/Carpark Records

There are artists out there who give a lot of thought to their intended audience. They use terms like “relatable”, and strive to have their music “resonant” with the listener. Then there’s the likes of Greys. Frankly, they are too happy just playing what the hell they want to give a sh%# what you think. It’s the quintessential punk attitude, and Greys have it in spades. Continue Reading

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

[Album Review] Patrick Ballantyne- Days of Rain

No Comments 01 July 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 29th, 2014
Label: Independent

Patrick Ballantyne isn’t exactly a household name, but there is a good chance you’ve heard his songs before. Up until recently, Ballantyne’s musical talents have been funneled into writing songs for others, such as Big Sugar and The Trews. However, he makes it abundantly clear on his latest release ‘Days of Rain’ that we have been missing out in not hearing him perform his songs himself. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Hardcore, Metal, Music, Punk

[Album Review] White Lung- Deep Fantasy

No Comments 30 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Label: Domino Records

Warning: take a deep breath before pressing the start button on ‘Deep Fantasy’ because once you do it’s a headlong rush, with no time for anything as mundane as inhaling. White Lung lets loose an unrelenting torrent of scorching metal-tinged hardcore. They take no prisoners. It is punk perfection. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Canadian, Electropop, Music, Pop

[Album Review] Young Liars- Tidal Wave

No Comments 30 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 24, 2014
Label: Nettwerk Music Group

The Young Liars’ Tidal Wave harkens back to those sunny days of 80’s synthpop. The lyrics are lightweight and the tunes are bouncy, mostly danceable. Jordan Raine’s voice has that delicate, vulnerable quality that is well-suited to 80’s-style ballads. If all you are looking for is innocuous pop music that drifts from your memory leaving no trace, then so far so good. But, is there something more substantial going on here, something worth sitting up and paying attention to? Now, that is a good question. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Commercials, Experimental, Music, Pop

[Album Review] Owen Pallett- In Conflict

No Comments 28 June 2014

by Tiana Feng


Release Date: May 15th, 2014
Label: Secret City Records

I let In Conflict stir in my mind for a month before I decided to write this review. I even saw Owen Pallett play at Danforth Music Hall the week of its release. While Heartland, told us a tale, In Conflict is like a personal confession. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Music, Pop

[Album Review] Michael Rault- Living Daylight

No Comments 26 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: June 24th, 2014
Label: Pirate’s Blend

Take the glam/funk of T. Rex, complete with a psychedelic hang-over, filter it through the lens of early 90’s Lenny Kravitz and then re-imagine it all in some Canadian kid’s bedroom. If you can take all that in, it gives you some idea of what to expect on Michael Rault’s ‘Living Daylight’. Needless to say, this is a retro-fest, but the crisp production and lively arrangements give it a fresh, contemporary feel. With its Ringo-inspired percussion and swirling hippie keyboards interspersed with cheeky guitars, the record showcases some top-notch musicianship. If you want something to liven up your BBQ parties this summer then you can’t go wrong with this collection of hook-laden power pop songs.
Choice track: “Real Love (Yeah)”

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Electropop, Music, Pop, Punk

[Album Review] Sex With Strangers- You Know Something We Don’t?

No Comments 25 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Label: Independent

Vancouver’s Sex With Strangers is what you would call a “true” band, where every member makes his or her presence felt. The driving rhythms of drummer Dan Walker and bassist Mike Gentile lend the songs their power, whereas the versatile guitar playing of Cory Price provides the tone, which varies greatly from track to track. This is not to overlook the one-two punch of vocalists Hatch Benedict and Alexis Young, who together anchor the entire affair. Perhaps it is the fact that SWS consists of five such strong musical individuals that accounts for the diversity of its sound. The band plays new-wave power pop with a hard rock edge, but allows strains of punk, math rock, prog metal and synth rock to permeate the mix. Continue Reading

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

[Album Review] Bry Webb- Free Will

No Comments 09 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Label: Idee Fixe Records

After spending ten years fronting a high-octane rock band like the Constantines it’s understandable that with his first solo effort Bry Webb would explore music at the other end of the spectrum. ‘Provider‘ offered up a collection of mellow folk songs, revealing the thoughts of a man coming to terms with being a father. On his second outing Webb shows no signs of changing his tune, quite literally. The album ‘Free Will‘ is again inspired by the musician’s son, Asa, which may well provide the artist the opportunity for some musing but it does not necessarily make for the best of musical outings. Continue Reading

Album Reviews, Alternative, Canadian, Garage, Grunge, Music

[Album Review] Cousins- The Halls of Wickwire

No Comments 04 June 2014

by Mark Anthony Brennan


Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Label: Hand Drawn Dracula

It has the energy of punk, the distortion of noise pop and the angst of grunge. Such is the sound of Cousins, reputedly Halifax’s hardest-working band. And yet a listen to their latest release The Halls of Wickwire reveals more complexity than punk, more muscle than noise pop, and it offers more hope than grunge ever could.  The fact is Cousins carve out their own niche, creating their unique way of communicating through the medium of modern music. They are painfully aware that this ugly world can drag you down, but their music makes you jump up and yell back in defiance. Continue Reading

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