Articles posted in January 2010

They don’t show love

Just like George Harrison, drummer Michael Taylor (middle) is the serious one
In 1984, Spinal Tap appeared on Saturday Night Live, performing the song “Big Bottom” with an instrumental setup that included three bassists plus a bass synth. Of course, the sound was a sludgy mess—perfect for the band’s raunchy lyrics and schlock metal gimmick.

That’s what I thought of when I first heard of Vancouver’s Modern Creatures. Not that the trio’s sound is ugly or schticky (although it definitely is heavy), but the two-bass setup means that there are few well-known reference points to fall back on.

“The Converts” was released last year on the band’s self-titled LP, and it’s a characteristically noisy fuzz punk assault. Still, as raucous as it is, there are also delicate touches: frontwoman Nikki Never adds an eerie harmony during the chorus, while atmospheric bass overdubs warble during the instrumental break.

Read my interview with Modern Creatures in last month’s BeatRoute.

MP3: “The Converts”
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Rush in like fools do

They are a rock, they are an island.
The internet may have permanently ruined the financial viability of the music industry, but at least it has made bands like EP Island possible. A home recording project featuring singer/guitarist LL Schultz (guitar/vocals) and Melanie Covey (drums), the duo’s goal is to write and record an EP in a single weekend. The pair then releases the result on the internet.

I recently spoke with Schultz about the origins of the project, as well as the influence of Portico singer Lyn Heinemann, who contributed vocals to the latest EP, Rad’ish. Read the brief interview in the Georgia Straight.

Also check out “Broken Social Smoker,” the EP’s chilly opening track. Combining tribal percussion with chiming guitars and Heinemann’s ghostly harmonies, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a cold winter evening. If it catches your fancy, download the entire EP here.

MP3: “Broken Social Smoker”
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If I’m lucky I’ll get into a fight

Refueling for the next fight
Before interviewing ex-Be Your Own Pet frontwoman Jemina Pearl, I was a little bit nervous. After all, the singer has a reputation for occasional violence, and I wasn’t sure what her reaction would be when I asked her about the recent incident when she beat up an audience member in Detroit. (Then again, the interview was over the phone, so how bad could her response be?)

I needn’t have worried, however, since Pearl was easily one of the most open, talkative artists I’ve ever interviewed. She was easygoing and friendly, and even gave me some funny (and slightly graphic) quotes about an argument with a Vancouver heckler back in 2007.

Read the interview in BeatRoute. Also check out the song “I Hate People,” a catchy tune that sounds like it could have been lifted out of 1950s teen musical. Of course, the twist is that it’s about how much she hates everyone, and punk legend Iggy Pop contributes backup vocals to the chorus.

MP3: “I Hate People”
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You showed me so much

Ever wonder if this picture is normal and that the kaleidoscope is actually you?
A Dark Horse no longer, Montreal rockers the Besnard Lakes have a new album coming out on March 9 entitled The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. The first single is called “Albatross,” and it sounds like it was made to be turned into a dramatic slow motion montage. Grey’s Anatomy, are you listening?

It’s five blissful minutes of dream pop harmonies, shoegaze fuzz and triumphant drums. And the exact same guitar tone as Modest Mouse‘s “A Different City,” incidentally. The lyrics, when they’re discernible, are mostly made up of opaque but touching phrases like “You showed me so much.” It sounds like a love song until the final line of the song: “There goes my dad.”

MP3: “Albatross”
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Let me clean my teeth and I’ll be right down

Leading the Greasers against the Socs
According to Wikipedia, British Columbian law states that a settlement must have 5,000 residents before it can be considered a city. Kelowna outfit We Are the City only has three members, so that probably constitutes false advertising. The group is made up of three pretty dudes (just look at them!) who play unabashedly pretty music, and their debut album, In a Quiet World, is due out on January 19.

“There Are Very Tiny Beasts in the Ground” is much less creepy than the title suggests, an atmospheric rocker with upbeat piano chords and a hygienic refrain of “Let me clean my teeth and I’ll be right down.” The payoff comes halfway through, when a percussive, bossa nova-style breakdown gives way to a dramatic, Coldplay-sized rock out.

MP3: “There Are Very Tiny Beasts in the Ground”
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The curse of inquisitive minds

By day, the members of Pocketbooks sell ukuleles
Belle & Sebastian is my favourite band, largely because of songwriter Stuart Murdoch’s talent for romanticizing everyday life. He rarely writes about important people or dramatic events; instead, he transforms sports training into poetry (“The Stars of Track and Field”) and finds beauty in fantastical dreams (“Judy and the Dream of Horses”).

This same attention to detail is what makes Pocketbooks‘ “Fleeting Moments” such a compelling song. As frontwoman Emma Hall sings, “I see joy within the syntax of a shop sign / Or a bus stop conversion in a West Country town.” Her lyrical minutiae are complimented with sugary melodies, jangling guitars and charmingly twee boy/girl harmonies.

It sounds more or less like Camera Obscura‘s “Keep It Clean” played at twice the speed, but this London group has such a convincing take on Scottish indie pop that no one is likely to fault them for the similarity.

MP3: “Fleeting Moments”
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She treated me fairly badly

Hitting a tambourine and thinking about his ex-girlfriend
In Cary Pratt’s world, heartbreak is inevitable. This philosophy permeates every groove of It Began/Ended with Sparks, his second release (and first full-length album) under the Prairie Cat moniker.

Pratt’s romantic pessimism is never more apparent than on “Never Right,” a catchy keyboard ditty about a string a failed relationships. The song addresses a string of ex-lovers—”this girl from my hometown,” “Jen, New Mexico,” the unnamed “you”—and describes how each romance soured. Pratt doesn’t absolve himself of blame, admitting, “I treated her fairly badly.”

What’s most poignant about the song is that none of the relationships appear to have ended for any good reason. Instead, the singer wonders, “I don’t know why I never call / I don’t know why I never write.” But hey, the track is laden with pattering bongos, bouncy drums and glitchy 8-bit keyboards, so there’s no reason to get too depressed.

For further reading, I reviewed It Began/Ended with Sparks for the Georgia Straight and interviewed Cary for BeatRoute.

MP3: “Never Right”
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I wanna hear every beat of your heart

The Drums slept with one another's girlfriends the night before
A new decade and still ’80s nostalgia appears to be in no danger of waning any time soon. Case in point: new wave-loving Brooklynites the Drums, who are shaping up to be one of the breakthrough bands of 2010.

The band has a steady buildup of buzz, thanks partly to the new single “I Felt Stupid.” The song is pure Robert Smith, from the jangly guitars right down to the faux British accent adopted by singer Jonathan Pierce. It’s anchored by an infectious electro pulse, but what really seals the deal is the euphoric chorus, Pierce’s voice rising in desperation as a he sings, “Stay with me / I wanna hear every beat of your heart.”

MP3: “I Felt Stupid”
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The voice of God spillin’ out of my mouth

Only Will Currie (second left) was in on the joke
Novels will probably get labeled as a supergroup, although the band’s members are hardly megastars. A collaboration between Graham Wright (Tokyo Police Club), Luke Lalonde (Born Ruffians), Will Currie (Will Currie and the Country French), Dean Marino (EX~PO) and Jason Sadlowski (Jay Sad), each songwriter contributed one track to the group’s self-titled EP, which is available now as a free download from their website.

“No Hard Feelings” is fronted by Graham Wright, and it covers similar stylistic territory to his folksy solo recordings. A saloon piano plunks along as Wright sings a wistfully nostalgic tribute to a friend who’s moving away. The song’s characters appear to be school friends, but it’s also possible that it’s a divorced father addressing his daughter, singing, “Say hello to the boys you kiss / When you turn sixteen / Show ‘em what you’re made of, kid / And give ‘em hell for me.”

MP3: “No Hard Feelings”
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Dive into this cold lake

The wet t-shirt contest was declared a draw
Montreal’s Flotilla specializes in ethereal pop, mixing tinkling harp with chiming, reverb-y guitars and jazzy rhythms. Frontwoman Veronica Charnley sounds near-identical to St. Vincent‘s Annie Clark, a similarity that’s accentuated by choral harmonies and fairytale melodies.

“Prélude and Epilogue” is a gorgeously dreamy offering from the group’s second album, One Hundred Words for Water. Purring horns set a soothing backdrop for a laid back electric piano groove, although the rhythm occasionally slows down for a measure, meaning that you can’t ever get too comfortable.

The first half of the song (the “Prélude” part, I suppose) is a surreal narrative about a shipwreck, in which the crew disembarks on the ocean floor and meets an underwater queen. After a distorted crescendo, the song breaks down into a sparse refrain of “Autumn’s here, it’s almost too late / To dive into this cold lake” (the “Epilogue”). It’s a beautiful, evocative lyric that almost anyone can relate to—enough to make you forget that the story is pretty much “Octopus’s Garden” without an octopus.

MP3: “Prélude and Epilogue”
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