Articles posted in January 2010

Stick up for yourself, son

Props to Enya
Ever wonder what it would sound like if the Police had spent the past 25 years hibernating inside of a computer? Probably something like “Ambling Alp,” the recent single by Brookyln experimental outfit Yeasayer. A shuddery verse gives way to a joyous, electro-reggae chorus with the inspirational message, “Stick up for yourself, son / Never mind what anybody else done.” During the bridge, it suddenly transforms into Prince-inspired glam, with soaring falsetto vocals and robotic blasts of horns and synthesizer.

If you like the tune, be sure to check out Odd Blood, due out February 9 via Secretly Canadian. If you like looking at naked people, be sure to check out the music video, which is NSFW and extremely weird.

Incidentally, Yeasayer’s MySpace features the slogan “ENYA with BOUNCE.” Which is awesome, since it’s about time Enya got her due credit from the indie crowd. Think that the Knife‘s “Silent Shout” doesn’t sound kind of like an Enya riff? You’re wrong, because it does. But I digress.

MP3: “Ambling Alp”
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Just a few minutes more

Stretching the definition of the one-man band
Vancouver is currently experiencing its warmest January ever, almost 4° C above usual. This will be remembered as the year that puddle jumping became an official Olympic sport. Thanks, El Niño (which, for those of you who don’t hablas Español, is Spanish for “The Niño”).

Here’s some unseasonably summery music from Spirit Spine, a laptop pop artist from Bloomington, Indiana. While much of his work sounds like ’80s-indebted guitar pop, the loop-heavy “Slept Away” comes off like Panda Bear, minus the obvious Brian Wilson-isms. Featuring a cyclical keyboard motif and reverb-swathed vocals, it’s a dreamy way to pass the time until we can all go sunbathing again (February, or whenever).

MP3: “Slept Away”
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Turn around and say goodbye

Bullies frequently referred to Black Tambourine as Fourteen-Eyes
In the immortal words of Phoebe Buffay, “Oh my God, he’s not even appreciated in his own time. I would give anything not to be appreciated in my own time!” She was talking about Ross, but she might as well have been talking about Black Tambourine. Despite receiving minimal recognition during its brief run in the early ’90s, the little-known band is frequently cited as an influence on contemporary noise pop artists. This is especially impressive given the group’s limited output: it released a small handful of singles in the early ’90s, and 1999′s Complete Recordings compilation featured just ten tracks.

Apparently, the Complete Recordings weren’t so complete after all. On March 30, Slumberland will issue an anthology featuring 16 songs. This means six new songs for anyone who already owns the Complete Recordings.

“For Ex-Lovers Only” isn’t one of those six new tracks. It’s a noisy-yet-sugary gem that sounds like any number of current lo-fi bands. Of course, it’s actually two decades old. Fans of fuzzed-out dream pop, brace yourselves.

MP3: “For Ex-Lovers Only”
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A pretty amazing day

The multi-generational Cinderpop
Crap. My resolution this year was to update this blog with a new song every day. Unfortunately, I did not account for the fact that technology is a bitch. On Tuesday evening, my server went down because I exceeded my bandwidth, meaning that I couldn’t post anything yesterday. The dream is over! I was totally going to be just like Amy Adams in Julie & Julia! If they ever make a movie about Chipped Hip, this is the part where I’ll break down crying in the kitchen. Blogging is hard, but I’m learning so much about myself, you guys!

Here’s “Cinnamon Winter,” a piano pop tune by the Elliott Smith-indebted Vancouver band Cinderpop. I reviewed the Cinnamon Winter EP in the Georgia Straight a while back.

MP3: “Cinnamon Winter”
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Don’t it feel good not to be a total asshole?

The annual meeting of the All Beards Club
Calgary’s the Dudes are ostensibly a jock rock band, but they’ve always had a slight undercurrent of soul, mainly due to singer Dan Vacon’s husky croon. It’s no big surprise, then, to learn that Vacon also has a soul-infused side project, the Dojo Workhorse. The group put out an album last year, Weapons Grade Romantic, that eschews the Dudes’ electrified riff rock in favour of folksy ballads and horn-laden R&B.

“I Got Life” is a straightforward acoustic strummer, featuring dense gospel harmonies, church-y organ and a hooky guitar break. Best of all are the lyrics, which find Vacon deliberating on science and faith and admitting, “I’ve got the Lord in me / Which is a surprise / ‘Cause I don’t believe in nothing at all.”

MP3: “I Got Life”
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The life she let him siphon away

Try to imagine this Caribou mounted on your wall (eww, sorry)
In Canadian indie music, there’s no more prestigious award than the Polaris Music Prize. It’s going to be tough, therefore, for songwriter Dan Snaith to top 2007′s Andorra, his Polaris-winning album under the Caribou moniker.

Andorra‘s follow-up is entitled Swim, and it’s due out April 20 via Merge. The lead single is called “Odessa,” and it abandons the woozy psychedelia of Caribou’s previous work in favour of a straightforward dance pulse (the title is possibly a reference the 1969 Bee Gees album of the same name). It sounds a bit like it arrived in a time machine from a ’70s roller disco, an impression that’s intensified by subtle touches of funk guitar. As an electronic drum loop sets a brisk pace, Snaith offers up a feathery and strangely deadpan vocal performance, describing a woman escaping from an unsatisfying (and possibly abusive) relationship.

MP3: “Odessa”
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I don’t care what my friends say

Bobbing for apples, Indian Wars-style
Considering that’s it’s essentially a niche sport, surfing certainly has enjoyed a rich cultural legacy. After all, it’s difficult to imagine an entire genre of music dedicated to rock climbing.

For one of the most addictive surf guitar licks in recent memory, check out “Carol Anne,” the new single by Vancouver up-and-comers Indian Wars. The tune is an energetic, fuzzy garage rock stomp, but it’s mostly the call-and-response guitar riff that will keep you coming back for more. It’s a ’60s-inspired gem that offers just the right balance of grit and sparkle.

Indian Wars recently issued a 7″ via Bachelor. Soon they’ll be releasing a split 7″ with Fungi Girls via Psychic Lunch/CMRTYZ.

MP3: “Carol Anne”
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If you feel a little weirder than you oughta

The band decided to line up in order of hairiness
Sun Wizard frontman Malcolm Jack has a quintessential rock ‘n’ roll voice, combining the sneering disaffection of Julian Casablancas with the drawl of Tom Petty. It’s fitting, then, that the Vancouver four-piece is a quintessential rock ‘n’ roll band, offering ’70s-infused guitar jams and summery Laurel Canyon vocal harmonies. Check out “Glorious,” the first track off the group’s recently-released EP, Maybe They Were Right. An anti-urban anthem, it’s a sunny rocker that makes me want to crank up the car stereo and drive around with the windows down. First I’ll need a car, however. And a driver’s license.

Click here to offer me a car and/or driving lessons. Click below to download the song.

MP3: “Glorious”
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A message for the acolytes

I guess Zelda was already taken
Final Fantasy no longer, Owen Pallett recently released Heartland, his first album under his own name. As well as shedding his moniker, he also shed the murky production that hampered his last LP, He Poos Clouds; the vocals are no longer buried in the mix, and the combination of strings, percussion and electronics sounds gorgeous.

It’s a punchier, more immediate style, and this can be heard on the single “Lewis Takes Action,” which begins with a pounding beat that sounds halfway between a tango and “Just Like Honey” by the Jesus and Mary Chain. It builds to a gorgeous baroque arrangement, with strings and horns that vary between shimmering beauty and tense discord. It ends strangely, the final chord never resolving back to the root.

On a related note, now that Pallett has dropped the Final Fantasy name, can we say that he’s had his final fantasy as Final Fantasy? It’s thoughts like this that keep me up at night.

MP3: “Lewis Takes Action”
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I don’t write love songs

Under the studio lights, fanshaw burned within minutes
In the ’00s, Mint Records was the undisputed champion of Western Canadian record labels. A few years ago, however, the New Pornagraphers jumped ship to Matador, meaning that Mint’s supremacy over the next ten years is far from guaranteed.

The label is getting the decade off to a good start with Dark Eyes, the solo debut from Choir Practice member fanshaw. Due out on February 9, it’s a sparse, haunting collection that I’ve had on regular rotation over the past week or so.

Most of the album’s nine tracks feature little instrumentation other than a chiming electric guitar and a pattering beat, meaning that the piano chords of “Strong Hips” sound almost impossibly lush by comparison. She begins the song by claiming, “I’ve got a lot of music in me,” later admitting, “I don’t write love songs.” Get out your headphones, because this one is perfect for late night listening.

Incidentally, Dark Eyescover art reminds me of the famous portrait of Victorian writer Emily Brontë. Which is appropriate, I suppose, given fanshaw’s fondness for ghostly, gothic creep-outs.

MP3: “Strong Hips”
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