And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'
A Music Journal Collective Effort
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Sunday, January 15, 2012
EASTBOROUGH - YOUR PLACE
(Released Sept. 23, 2011)
The musical landscape is dramatically changing and Stefani Guzman, and her musical project of Eastborough, are living proof of that truth. With one EP, a single and now, finally, one full-length album spanning back to 2006, Eastborough have done things the way most musicians do things, now; when they can and on the side of everything else.
As an Ottawa-based band that received some acclaim from Chart Attack and Live 88.5 back in ’06, things were pumping along for Eastborough with the release of their EP ‘S/T’. In 2009, however, Stefani felt the need to pack up and move, while forming a new band and giving her music a go in big smoke of Toronto. After a lot of waiting and wondering, ‘Your Place’ just might be the fruits of a hard-earned labour.
‘Shuffle and Slide’ kicks off the record with a dancey, pluck-rhythmic melody that skips along sidewalks and careens along with a happy spirit. Guzman repeats the words ‘I don’t care/I don’t know because I’m letting go’ over and over with a cool, carefree tone. One of the strongest tracks of the record, though, is the third song ‘Absent President’ that bolsters the listener forward on a soundscape of strong-strumming acoustic guitars and a speeding drumbeat. The line ‘the sun always shines through the shadows of the ones we’ve lost’ seems to remind Guzman of a memory that keeps her going.
Guzman’s vocals are strong and often layered to perfection – not to the point of overkill but just on the threshold of making a listening audience sit up and stick their ears closer to the speaker. ‘Your Place’ has a good sonic variety, pumping out strong, break-neck electro-rock at times and hanging back with soulful folksiness at others (with mellow moments like the acoustic/cello-based ‘When You Ask’).
Though it’s a little low on theme or lyrical depth at times, ‘Your Place’ is a record that will boost your spirits on a solemn Sunday afternoon. Eastborough are the watermark of a strong songwriter and a strong musical troupe who have not let years between projects weaken their attack. As only the third major release from Eastborough, it’s obvious that Guzman and crew are on to something promising, here.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Good To Write
In a Super Friendz song from ages past, the words candor and careen in the chorus: 'It's good to feel like - It's good to feel liked' over and over again, in a pulsating fashion.
We are nothing if we are not constantly desiring the approval and admiration of others.
We want to be original but we can't exist without the admonished view of our peers.
I can't dismiss this year. It has been an adventure every step of the way. Here I am - in early January - waxing and waning about the year I've had.
Tonight, I walked home in a wack of snow. Snow and ice. It pervaded every step. It took over every notion of coldness and made my bones wreak of fragility. It made me human, that coldness. It made me 'me'.
Why do we write? Who do we think that we are? Why do we rival those who do it as well as we do (if not better)?
I remember the day that 9/11 happened. I was working for my dad's friend Tim in a lumber yard outside of Manotick.
Reports kept coming in that a massive airplane had hit a building in New York. I didn't believe it. My friend Joel worked with me that day and had the same sense of disbelief. A francophone worker refused to climb up the wood chip dispensation machine ladder because he feared for his life. It was comical, but I didn't get it.
Being Canadian, I didn't get it.
I'm watching Season 1 of Rescue Me and now, I get it. I see the things that I missed before. I see the things that I clearly ignored.
I see the signs that we forewarned and ignored.
I see a world that is bored.
Monday, January 02, 2012
Interview with Jon Lajoie
by Matt McKechnie
(originally published at webcitybeat.com)
Sometimes known to his fans as the physically awkward but incredibly crass rapper MC Vagina, Jon Lajoie was firing on all comedic cylinders at the Bronson Centre on Wednesday November the 9th.
The Montreal-born comedian is currently embarking an Ontario-wide tour and stopped in the nation’s capital for some mid-week punchlines. Lajoie’s act combined some normal stand-up along with some lively but deadpan songs, including his massive internet chart-topper Everyday Normal Guy.
After recently landing a role on the FX network comedy sitcom The League, Lajoie re-located to California as a career move, and to sharpen his acting chops, but he still has a deep affection for his native country.
“I live there a lot most of the year. If it was up to me, though, I wouldn’t stay there.
It’s for the work. For show biz, everything’s there. I lucked out. I landed a role on The League. It was pretty lucky. The producers kinda saw me and said ‘Hey – let’s grab this guy,” said Lajoie.
Lajoie gained a substantial amount of success through YouTube as he began making off-beat comedy videos and character-based skits in 2007. Since then, his following has become somewhat cult-like as his zany and inventively coarse humour has caught many eyes.
The show featured an array of caricatures as he began as MC Vagina – a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts wearing, machine-gun toting rapper who is socially awkward but incredibly forward in a sexual sense. Thrusting his pelvis in a robotic fashion, while repeating the chorus ‘show me your genitals – your genitals’, Lajoie had the audience laughing and unable to look away from the get go.
Lajoie even conversed with the crowd and sang a birthday song to a few audience members who coyly admitted that it was.
One of the most interesting segments of the night happened when Lajoie launched into a phony business-based seminar entitled ‘How To Act Good’. The presentation explained, in a farcical sense, how to get famous in Hollywood. Citing various acting techniques of iconic figures like Bruce Willis (who, according to Lajoie, acts his best due to a shaved head and carrying a gun), Lajoie made light of an industry that takes itself a little too seriously. Lajoie’s cynical but often underhandedly witty delivery shows that he definitely has an intelligent side underneath all of the silly crudity.
Overall, Lajoie is an interesting enigma of a modern comedian who can sing, rap and deliver standard jokes when he needs to do so. Although he has gained some notoriety in Tinseltown, Lajoie’s first love is making videos for the internet; something he insists that he will never give up.
“If I wasn’t on that show, living in L.A., I hate auditioning and I hate the city. I mean I love the weather and I love working when I have work. But if I wasn’t working on the show, I’d just be making online videos and recording my own music. I work on The League and I live there because of it and if that ends and nothing else comes out of it, I’ll be happy to move back,” says Lajoie.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - CODES AND KEYS
(Released May 31, 2011)
I've read the reviews on Codes and Keys and for the most part, it seemed like the public were sort of 'enh' in their response to this record - but I think that's because it's an album with layers that takes some precise digging and a bit of guesswork. In this day and age of spoon fed multimedia, DCFC has put out a record that truly makes the listener stick an ear to the speaker for a closer review and get lost in the cavalcade of sound.
(Yeah, yeah - Pitchfork didn't like it. They stabbed a snooty, self-applauding jab about Chris Walla citing Brian Eno as an influence. High-brow. Par for the Pitchfork course. Big deal. I'm tired of talking about them and I'm tired of the countless flippy-haired, 22 year olds who inundate that dreck-rag. I just felt like mentioning their feckless agenda one last time.)
As children, we have no problem losing ourselves in wonder and magic. We run and we play and then we run and play some more. To truly understand this album, it seems like Gibbard is telling us to take a step backward from our busy schedules and the monetization of our minds and to just accept the silly reality of who we really are. 'Home Is A Fire' starts with a bit of an echo dreamscape, in the sense that that the far-away keyboards and synths really paint a mental image of something startling and comforting at the same time:
'Sleep, Sleep with the lights on / Shutter the shades drawn
There's too many windows...
Home, Home is a fire / A burning reminder of where we belong, oh'
The memory kaleidoscope of imagery continues as the synth-heavy album ramps up in its delivery. The lock-step tempo of Doors Unlocked And Open throttles ahead without apology. The song deals with leaving the world of the fast-paced, non-fiction and swimming into a world beyond time. The line 'in the ocean of sound, we'll live in slow motion' repeats in a vocal-effect ridden chorus. The hit single 'You Are A Tourist' continues on that bent in a more adult-like fashion as the main guitar riff seems to motion the listener on an upward rocket-ride towards the stratosphere, telling us that we can always gain a new viewpoint if we feel constrained.
Fret not though, DCFC fans - you'll still hear plenty of token, bright guitar riffs, careening drumbeats and boyish Gibbard vocals. You'll just experience them in a totally different framework.
In essence, Codes And Keys is an album about the layers and grids that lie behind everything we do. Our understanding of time and existence, in the sense of home and family, is something that DCFC challenges on this record with an innocent, escapist view of a jaded universe. Gibbard, Walla and company have left their poppy roots and have put out something that truly takes a few brave listens to 'get'. You might have to leave your pop-ridden, adult mind behind - and you might just like what you see and hear.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
JOEL PLASKETT -EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations.
(Released June 14, 2011)
When some artists strain to fill an order of a 10 song album, after a steady diet of 5 song EP's, Joel Plaskett delivers a 5 course meal (with several amuse-bouches and disgestifs) to fill the listener's song-belly to overflow. Mining out some long-hidden treasures and compilation gems, Plaskett's ability to pan through the caverns of his own work, and make dusty trinkets into collector's items, is utterly soul-stirring. After punching out the time-card at 20 tracks, there's no way that anyone can accuse this man of under-contributing.
Although some of these tracks have been available before ('On The Rail' and a cover of Irma Thomas' 'Hurt's All Gone'), they are no less relevant as they are now all accessible to fans in the same location. In fact, for fans of Plaskett and The Emergency's live show, the track order of this album is fairly comparable to a lot of their set lists. I was pleasantly surprised with a fuzzed-up, buzzed-up version of 'Make A Little Noise' that gives this song a little 'umph' which the original version lacked. 'When I Go' is another unexpected but beautiful, strummy b-side from Three that features the lovely vocal licks of Rose Cousins and Anna Egge. Other than 'Money In The Bank' (which is a little laborious and overly garaged at times), all of the songs on this record are listenable, likeable and deliver exactly what your favourite band delivers every time you see them live; they bring old songs back to life.
Plaskett is making himself into something of a pioneer in the Canadian music scene as he is unafraid of the caterwauling of the critics. 27 songs are too many for an album? Poppycock. A b-side record of 20 tracks is overdoing it? Hogwash. Time and time again, his sometimes-twangy-but-always-rockin' register of songs demonstrates his love for his country and his keen, wordsmithy and ever-wet songwriting pen. 'Emergencys...' shows us more of the same but it also illuminates the ability of a true artist to give old canvases a new coat of paint.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
JIMMY EAT WORLD - INVENTED
(Released Sept. 28 2010)
I hate Pitchfork magazine.
Sometimes, I even hate it so much that my hatred becomes a seething rage that makes me see red and want to destroy every cynical, hipstery, 'I'm-too-cool-to-be-amused-by-anything' writer who has ever been published on that God forsaken website. A great example of this well-warranted fury comes from Pitchfork's reviews of 'Bleed American' and 'Futures' which you can read here but I'm not going to get into the details of 'who said what'. Just read the reviews for yourselves and ask the question 'Is this fair review-writing'?
Okay - let's be honest. Jimmy Eat World may have sold out a bit after Clarity and some of their earlier works when they hit it big with Bleed American, but this is a band who lives to make music - loud, blasting, poppy, thickly distorted guitar-amp and drum music. In an interview I did with David Bazan recently, Bazan had just finished touring with Jimmy Eat World and stated 'Jimmy Eat World have some of the craziest guitar tones I've ever heard'. Slickly hilarious with an ironic lyrical humour, thick-framed glasses and left wing/indie street cred? Maybe not - but JEW is a band who knows their way around the science of good songwriting and distortion pedals. 'Invented' is a pure and raw example of that.
'Heart Is Hard To Find' kicks the album off with a more acoustically driven sound than the typical JEW fare and the song title speaks for itself as Adkins displays the impossibility of maintaining friendships over many years and the displacement of values: 'I can't compete with a real education / All the fucked up things you say / could not be any less help to me'. One of the most mind and ear blasting songs I have ever heard, though, has to be 'Evidence'. When the fuzz-gun guitars come in, it sounds like a new sonic universe has exploded into being inside of your brain. Possibly the best anthem of the album, though, is 'Coffee And Cigarettes' which lyricizes every post-secondary student's dream to travel. The song speeds on a driving bed of thick, drop D guitars and a straight-as-an-arrow 4/4 beat: 'When I finally finished school / It was the first thing that I did / What every townie kid dreams of / I packed and started west / A thousand dollars I had saved and my sister's two cassettes / The Dead from Filmore East and Otis Redding's greatest hits'.
Suffice it to say that Jimmy Eat World have been around and will probably still be around for a long while because their songs have meaning and emotion. Adkins' thin but passion-fused voice may wear on some listeners, but like it or not - he is the bedrock of the band. Maybe JEW were born in a bit of an emo-overkill age but they have stuck it out and proven themselves to be fighters in the bullshit of the music industry. And in a faux-indie age where 'it's cool to be folky and subdued', JEW have not compromised in their volume levels. Invented's only downfall is that it runs a little long (16 songs on the deluxe version, including a few acoustic repeaters). They probably could have stopped at 12 and made it an album for the ages.