by Mark Anthony Brennan
Piano-playing singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. has been catching attention from L.A. to London and he hasn’t even recorded an album. After all the buzz we finally get his first single, “Hollywood”, a sparse confessional about the Vancouver artist’s trials and tribulations in Los Angeles. Despite the song’s bleakness it’s captivating.
by Tiana Feng
Babe Rainbow aka Cameron Reed (or you might know him as @DoritosOntario released a fantastic ambient album this year titled “Music for 1 Piano, 2 Pianos, & More Pianos”. I don’t know why I totally forgot to post about this but the collection is beautiful and you should listen to it right now.
Last night, Lee’s Palace was infused with Icelandic musical flavours courtesy of Asgeir. Seemed like an ideal companion for many on a chilly night in early October.
Low Roar captivated the usually restless crowd during openers. There was absolute silence for the entire set, with no banter until the last song. Project of singer-songwriter Ryan Karazija (ex- Audrey Sessions), there was a certain cinematic and grandiose element to the songs ideal for listens during dark foggy nights. Karazija’s wailing falsettos never hit a false note, as the haunting melodies helped by eccentric synth patterns and electronic percussion all pieced together to establish a serene ambience. The set didn’t have the expected pauses. This was a bit puzzling for the crowd, unaware when to howl in appreciation. But, with such enthralling music, pausing for talk is more of an unnecessary interruption. Karazija and crew exited to encore chants. Not too shabby for a Toronto debut.
The evening of subdued melodies continued as Asgeir cozied the nippy venue with lush falsettos supported by a stellar crew of musicians collectively part of Asgeir Trausti band. Gaining initial fame for his Icelandic debut, the 22-year-old bearded songster announced his bilingual intentions at the start, much to the roaring delight of those wanting to hear from both Dýrð í dauðaþögn and the English translated In The Silence. After all, Asgeir’s gentle serenade is the real star. Voice that has the maturity of Justin Vernon or JVM, the fairly reserved Nordic star excelled both during acoustic gems ‘Summer Guest’ and the viral cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’ or louder jams ‘Torrent’ and the hit single ‘King and Cross’.
Impressive live performances can only further Asgeir’s widespread acclaim. If last night’s rowdy reception is any indication, the Icelandic star is all set to be the next successful musical export
Toronto is a resilient city. Instead of sulking in the disappointment that was Nuit Blanche on Saturday, hordes came out to the ‘Shoe for an evening of crunchy west-coast rock courtesy of Current Swell.
Theatre Crisp had an admirable consistent peppy energy as the venue was gradually filling up. Bringing their brand of ‘funk-hop’, the Niagara-based band played their unique cross genre of ska, funk and hip-hop. Fedora-adorning frontman humbleHAB was equally stellar as emcee and singer, impressing during A Tribe Called Quest and Jack Johnson covers. David Cox, tap dancer extraordinaire, was put to good use for percussion elements during brief ballad moments. Other times, Cox’ tapping sounds were understandably masked by instruments, appearing more to be a distraction. The band’s honest energy was particularly charming, as they ended the set with groovilicious ‘Suzie’.
Packed house on a Sunday night was apparently not the expectation from lads of Current Swell. Thankful for the roaring crowded reception, Scott Stanton and his buds from Victoria jumped right into their catalogue full of radio-friendly alt-rock tunes. What sets them apart is the varied mix of genres catering to your every music need. You have the funky & acoustic ‘Young and Able’ or nostalgic & folky ‘Long Time Ago’ or slide-guitar party jam ‘Rollin’, off the new release Ulysses. Newer material resonated even more with gems like ‘One Day I’ll Be Rich’ (move over, BNL!) or reflective ‘Man of Maps’. The hits never stopped comin, and there was barely a soul in the audience that wasn’t sweating along. Even Ghosty Boy shared his sentimental bliss. “Looked into the crowd during the song, and just the amount of beaming smiles back at me”, said the bassist, “made me realize it’s all worth it’. A true ‘awe shucks’ moment!
Humble and organic talent. That is word association for Current Swell. Doubt anybody would disagree with that. When you get to see them live, you would mostly like add ‘effing awesome’ to that list as well.
Peter Gardner, lead singer of Hawk and Steel, had an idea: team up with folk singer Sydney Batters, rent a warehouse and then, with little rehearsal, just record their favourite folk-rock songs. Simple. Earnest. Brilliant. The pair lovingly render versions of classics by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Guy Clark. The rustling of fabric, the odd missed note, a false start and some traffic noise merely add to the honesty of the effort.
So I get really excited about the Polaris Music Prize every year, but this year they’ve upped the ante with the Polaris Cover Sessions. There will be three releases from albums that have made the short-list in the past: Sarah Harmer will cover Caribou’s “Odessa” Whitehorse will cover The New Pornographers’ “Bones Of An Idol” and Great Lake Swimmers will cover Sarah Harmer’s “I’m A Mountain”.
The first release is here and it’s gorgeous. Only 31 more days until the Polaris gala!
by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: August 12th, 2014
Sean Travis Ramsay’s (a.k.a. Slight Birching) vocalization on ‘Cultural Envelope’ is often closer to spoken word than true singing, and even when he does actually sing he does so with such an idiosyncratic quaver that it serves to underscore the very personal nature of this music. He comes across as a genuinely friendly guy who is extending you an individual invitation to share in his musical world of indie folk musings, swooning pedal guitar, gentle acoustic guitar picking, delicate synth touches and the odd surprise (such as the trumpet work of Joseph Hirabayashi on the title track). Continue Reading