Articles posted in May 2010

Burning like a hole in the night

The mad scientist in his laboratory
I recently interviewed Calgary pop experimentalist Chad VanGaalen, whose Soft Airplane is one of my favourite albums of the last few years. Head over to Exclaim! to read the article, in which he talks about the five new albums he has waiting in the pipeline.

Here’s a song you’ve probably already heard, “City of Electric Light,” which comes from the folksy, Neil Young-influenced back end of Soft Airplane. It’s not one of the more upbeat, catchy songs from the album (that would be the rocking “Bones of Man,” which totally rules), so it’s a slightly strange choice of single. Then again, this isn’t surprising, since Chad has always been one for unconventional singles.

MP3: “City of Electric Light”
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Hear them buzzing in the trees

Dude in the middle is clearly the Mo Tucker of the group
I’ve got a new idea for a Twitter trend: #eeyore. It’s pretty much the same as #FML, since all you need to do is complain about some lousy that’s going on in your life. It’s just like what Eeyore would do if he had Twitter and fingers with which to type and wasn’t a fictional character. Here, I’ll get you started:

Today I wore my Velvet Underground shirt and four people told me I looked like Maureen Tucker. #eeyore

Easy! And true, incidentally. I’ve had the shirt for almost a year and no one’s ever said that before. I guess I walked out the door looking especially Maureen Tucker-y. Was I carrying mallets?

Here comes the segue: check out the new song by Cowboy Junkies, who once did an awesome cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” It’s called “Cicadas” and it’s a barely-there ballad that’s overlaid with field recordings of chirping birds and buzzing insects. In the final two minutes it builds to a jaunty lite funk groove before petering out and ending with some more garden sounds.

MP3: “Cicadas”
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Setting off fire alarms

This is what a hockey teeth fetishist looks like
This year, I’m a juror for the Polaris Music Prize. The Long List will be announced in 33 days, so recently I’ve been busy catching up on some Canadian albums I missed over the past twelve months.

One record I’ve been listening to is BahamasPink Strat. The debut by Toronto songwriter Afie Jurvanen, Bahamas’ dusty brand of lovesick folk recalls M. Ward after a pack of throat lozenges.

Here’s the album standout “Hockey Teeth.” I’m not sure exactly what he means when he sings, “I’m thanking the Lord / For blessing you with hockey teeth,” since that doesn’t exactly sound like my idea of a turn-on. Still, there’s no missing the romantic message behind lines like “Though there were girls before you / I don’t remember their names.”

MP3: “Hockey Teeth”
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Dream away life

I wanna lay Dum Dum Girls down in a bed of roses, or dasies, or whatever
I gave Dum Dum GirlsI Will Be a middling review when I wrote about it for BeatRoute a couple of months ago (the article appears to be no longer online). I’d like to make at least a partial retraction of what I said. At the time, I only had a stream of the album and I got a little bogged down in the details—namely the repetitive accompaniment, as several of the songs appear to use the exact same drum loops.

Once the album came out officially and I had a chance to listen to it on my iPod, my opinion of it changed. Because this isn’t a record that’s meant to be listened to while sitting in front of a computer; it’s a rock ‘n’ roll album and it sounds best when I’m out walking around the city or riding the bus.

Click below to download the pre-I Will Be tune “D.A.L.”, which is a ghostly waltz that’s completely unlike the punkish girl group pop of the LP. Also head over to Sub Pop to download the album track “Bhang, Bhang, I’m a Burnout” and the Record Store Day single “Pay for Me” in exchange for an e-mail address.

MP3: “D.A.L.”
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Waging a war against time

Get out your 3D glasses
Elephant Stone‘s name comes from a Stones Roses song, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this Montreal outfit. These five dudes were clearly raised on a steady diet of ’80s British jangle pop, with sitar-wielding frontman Rishi Dhir bringing a dash of ’60s psychedelia with his traditional Indian influences.

“Strangers” comes from the new EP The Glass Box and it opts for shimmering pop over rambling psychedelia. Dhir sounds like Elliott Smith doing his best Liam Gallagher impression, while his bandmates bounce along like the La’s trying to rewrite “There She Goes.” If you’re mourning the breakup of Oasis, here’s your Britpop fix.

MP3: “Strangers”
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Them’s the breaks

Road Regret #1: not splurging for a windshield
In the world of Canadian singer-songwriters, everything is coming up Dan Mangan. I recently reviewed his sold-out performances at the Vogue Theatre for Exclaim!, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it was one of the best local shows I’ve ever seen. The Vogue went bananas. For folk music!

Here’s “Road Regrets,” an acoustic rocker about the struggles faced by touring musicians. With all of the success he’s had over the past few months, I’m guessing those struggles have gotten a little easier. The song was released on last year’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice.

MP3: “Road Regrets”
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Write it on my skull

So much better than Old Sensae
Vancouver fuzz punk outfit Nü Sensae has a new album, TV, Death and the Devil coming out this month via Nominal. The first single is called “Cat’s Cradle,” and its ominously creeping verses are uncharacteristically placid for the duo: bassist Andrea Lukic goes sans-distortion, and her dead-eyed vocals are double-tracked and steeped in reverb. Drummer Daniel Pitout, meanwhile, offers up a tight, tom-heavy tribal beat. All hell breaks loose during the chorus, as Pitout thrashes away at his cymbals while Lukic unleashes her most terrifying banshee scream.

MP3: “Cat’s Cradle”
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The sun is solid gold

Rolf Klausener doesn't have time to look into your lousy camera
Now that Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has put the Acorn back into everyone’s mind (right?), the band is looking to capitalize with its third full length, No Ghost, due out June 1 via Paper Bag.

The first single is the spiky title track, much of which is based around a single chord and a hypnotic psych rock groove. The dense patchwork of overdubs keeps things interesting, with swirling electronics weaving through sawing violins and backmasked guitar leads.

In other Acorn-related news, the Wikipedia entry on the band lists Shaun Weadick as the “redheaded multi-instrumentalist/hype man.” It’s funny as well as useful, since it helps to distinguish him from the band’s other, non-redheaded multi-instrumentalist hype men.

MP3: “No Ghost”
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I feel just like an arrow

Rah Rah Rasputin
If you’ve seen Rah Rah live in the last couple of years, you may remember violinist Kristina Hedlund firing off a confetti cannon during the climactic “Arrows” (she’s credited with “pyrotechnics” on the band’s MySpace). The song now has a studio version and it’s the group’s new single from the upcoming Breaking Hearts.

The song is a baroque rock adrenaline shot, with propulsive guitar riffs, wailing violin and yelping background harmonies. Think Arcade Fire meets Broken Social Scene meets a triple espresso.

MP3: “Arrows”
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My love is for my land

Amy Millan breaks up the Broken Social Sausage Fest
Broken Social Scene‘s You Forgot It in People was a monumental album, but its near-mythical status in the world of Canadian indie rock means that anything the band releases will be met with impossibly high expectations.

Try to forget about whether or not Forgiveness Rock Record lives up to You Forgot It in People‘s legacy. It’s an hour-long opus that manages to be sweepingly ambitious without coming off as pompous or self-important. Here’s the opening track, “Wold Sick,” which simmers and builds for almost seven minutes without ever quite exploding like you think it’s going to. If you’ve listened to the album, you already know that the big payoff comes later (“Meet Me in the Basement,” am I right?).

MP3: “World Sick”
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