Friday, May 21, 2010

The Alphabet

photo used under Creative Commons by fedecomite

A is for Albatross, not just an old Monty Python catchword, but a nifty litle tune from the new Besnard Lakes disc, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night.

The Besnard Lakes-Albatross by inertiamusic

B is for Bad Religion, who celebrate 30 years of corrosive yet melodic punk. A live album is your for the asking, go here.

C is for C'mon by The Soft Pack.

The Soft Pack by The Soft Pack

D is for Dio. And Tenacious D.

E is for Elephant Stone. Because everyone loves a gratuitous Rickenbacker shot.

F is for Flaming Groovies. Is this the best power pop song ever?

G is for Gord Downie, the last Renaissance Man.

H is for Hoodoo Gurus, back with a new album and a poking-fun-at-Metallica video.

Hoodoo Gurus - Crackin' Up [Official Video] from Hoodoo Gurus on Vimeo.

I is for Infinite Arms, the new album from Band of Horses. You can also check out thee band's newest video, For Annabelle, here, as well as hearing the whole thing.

J is for Jim Kerr and his new thing, Lostboy. Get a free download here.

K is for Kathryn Calder (New Pornographers, Immaculate Machine), who will be releasing her debut solo record Are You My Mother? on August 3rd. Cool-lookin' cat, huh?

Kathryn Calder- Slip Away by scruffy the yak

L is for Lefty by Wheat Pool. Walking in high heels in the snow, big white sky, Manitoba mention in the lyrics - that's the prairies.

M is for Martha and the Muffins - Mess. It ain't Echo Beach, or even Danseparc, but it's all right for a comeback single.

N is for New Inheritors, the song Wintersleep want you to stick on a mixtape.

O is for Orono by The Wilderness of Manitoba. Of course, the band's from Toronto, not the keystone province, but The Wilderness of Ontario was not rustic or romantic enough for a nom de plume. I'm guessing.

THE WILDERNESS OF MANITOBA - Orono Park from Mitch Fillion on Vimeo.

P is for The Police. The always fine Music Ruined My Life blog has given us a series of posts sharing earlier stuff, and it is good, very good.

Q is for Queensryche. And Dio.

R is for Rome by Dog Day, dreamy indie-pop with a pretty little zombie video. Why are zombies so popular these days? Recently, a couple of kids in my grade 10 English class tried to sneak zombies into every conversation and every assignment. Although I'm not one of those zombie-obssessed fellows, my reading material has taken on a living dead bent lately. John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of Let the Right One In, has written a thankfully unique take on coming back to life, Handling the Undead. I recommend it. I also picked up The Dylan Dog Case Files, which weirdly enough contains a scene in which a stereotypical "punk" band plays Somebody Super Like You from the Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack.

Rome - DOG DAY from Seth Smith on Vimeo.

S is for San Antone by White Oklahoma Cowbell. Free download here.

T is for Winnipeg's The Telepathic Butterflies. From the new album out June 15, Wow & Flutter!, here's Circle Man, as well as A Scathing Report from 2008's Breakfast in Suburbia.

The Telepathic Butterflies-Circle Man by scruffy the yak

Telepathic Butterflies - A Scathing Report by Skeebop

U is for ukelele and Sanfordandsongs's bluegrass blitz.

W is for When Will This Heartache End from the upcoming (June 1st) reissue of The Blue Shadows record On the Floor of Heaven. You remember Winnipeg's Jeffrey Hatcher, don't you? Billy Cowsill? These guys were both ahead of their time and excellent revivalists, I hope they get noticed this time around.

The Blue Shadows-When Will This Heartache End by scruffy the yak

X is for the Goo Goo Dolls Extended available from the aforementioned Music Ruined My Life blog. Covers of I wanna Destroy You by the Soft Boys, Hit or Miss by The Damned, a couple more good ones and a couple I'm not sure about - tell me what you think.

Y is for a Free Yep roc sampler featuring:

1. The Apples in Stereo - Atom Bomb
2. Chuck Prophet - Bring On The Love
3. Bell X1 - The Snowman
4. Peggy Sue - Alice In The Kitchen
5. Dave Alvin - Krazy and Ignatz
6. John Doe - The Big Blue House
7. Liam Finn - I Will Explode
8. Drink Up Buttercup - King Day
9. Paul Weller - Rise and Fall
10. Los Straitjackets - Twist and Slide
11. Reckless Kelly - Pickin' Up Cans
12. Robyn Hitchcock - No Way Out of Time
13. The Gourds - Drunk Song

<a href="">No Way Out of Time by Yep Roc Records</a>

Z is for ZZ Top.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jane Siberry Gives Everything to You Free

Photo used under Creative Commons from Foxtongue

I try not to be a nostalgic old duffer. I like to mix up something old with something new, and I certainly harbour no illusions that music made in the 80s was all fun or carefree or good. When I stumbled across the news that Jane Siberry is giving away all 13 of her albums for free on her web site, my first thought was, cool! Then I considered the fact that I hadn't heard anything about Siberry for a long, long time, and hadn't especially wanted to. And I'm pretty sure some of my readers don't want to hear about her either, because if it doesn't include at least a glimmering of punk, metal or alt country, they're backing away and making the sign of the cross. Maybe upside down.

But One More Colour is a great pop song, and I only appreciated it more when people like the Rheostatics and Sarah Polley covered it. Calling All Angels with kd lang? A thing of beauty, pure and simple. Mimi On the Beach is cool quirky artpop, I can imagine Adrian Belew doing a fine cover. In fact, I realized Siberry made a lot of good precious pop that I really enjoy in small doses, including tracks such as Bound by the Beauty, Map of the World, The Walking (And Constantly), Ingrid and the Footman.

But if you make sometimes pretentious, oft-unusual pop that sometimes includes vocal passages that sound like spoken word, not everyone is going to jump on board. Siberry appeared in videos with creepy bovine hand puppets reading a magazine and pouring tea, wore viking horns, and pranced around extra-fake sets with distracting, eye-burning neons (the true scourge of the 80s?), forever labelling her as momentary silliness alongside Men without Hats for some, I'm sure.

But I can't think of a lot of women in Canada 20 to 30 years ago who were so boldly following their own vision. Lisa Dal Bello, maybe. Mary Margaret O'Hara had the eccentric, living on a planet of her own creation thing down, but only put out one real album in 1988. No one else comes to mind right now except much more run-of-the-mill artists like Luba or Lee Aaron, unless I can include Martha and the Muffins, who were much better than you think.

Siberry has continued to follow her own muse, changing her stage name to Issa, making more subtle music with less clever hooks, and distributing her own music online in manners seen as groundbreaking by some wags.

One More Colour - Jane Siberry by scruffy the yak

jane siberry (with k.d. lang) - calling all angels by SoSIA

Ingrid And The Footman - Jane Siberry by scruffy the yak

The Walking (And Constantly) - Jane Siberry by scruffy the yak

So what do you think? Does Siberry deserve to be reconsidered? I don't think there are a lot of Canadian artists that have made their own brand of uncompromising music for such a long time. Please leave a comment below, let me hear your voice, even if you're an annoyed metalhead.

And for you bangers, check out Moby's new metal band Diamondsnake. Real?!? metal, with squealing, snarling vocals, big dumb riffs, and song entitled Storm the Fuckin’ Kastle, We Want to Love You, What the World Needs Now is Rock, and Woman, Yeah. \m/

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Grab Bag: Paul Stanley, Cowboy Junkies, The National, Split Enz, Pernice Brothers

photo by Icemanfr75

What mother doesn't want some Paul Stanley? Captains Dead has offered up 70tracks of Paul Stanley's between-song banter. What says Happy Mother's Day better than a hairy chest and Stanley's unique mix of falsetto speaking/singing/shouting? Here's one that shows that Stanley is all about love and romance. I think.

Paul Stanley - Song Intro Lick it Up by scruffy the yak

If ridiculousness is not your bag (or your Mom's), here's a couple tracks from the new Cowboy Junkies album, Renmin Park (out June 15). I've gone back and forth about this band; liked The Trinity Sessions, enjoyed the rocky pop of Miles from Our Home, and was re-introduced when they re-did Trinity with folks like Ryan Adams and Vic Chestnutt. I respect a band that's pretty much done whatever band members wanted, staying together and trying new things.

Cowboy Junkies-Stranger Here by scruffy the yak

Cowboy Junkies-Cicadas by scruffy the yak

If your Mother's a hipster (or you're the mother), she may already be into the new stuff out there from the National's new album High Violet (out Tuesday, May 11). The band is pretty hyped, but so far, I really like Blood Buzz Ohio, with its insistent percussion, sturdy piano, and vocals that somehow seem simultaneously joyous and melancholy.

The National "Blood Buzz Ohio" by modernmysteryblog

Here's Terrible Love, also from the new album. Sorry about the Pitchfork comedy stuff at the end.

Here's a couple of older songs. I like Apartment Story, because it's like the simple formula for thousands of other rock/metal videos over the years - band plays, no one pays attention or cares, gradually listeners are won over, including babies and/or the elderly.

Here's a live in-studio version of Fake Empire, just skip Jian's rambling intro, I did (it ends about 1:12 in).

If your mom doesn't care about anything new, how about some old Split Enz? The always-excellent Music Ruined My Life blog is giving the world an Enz album called The Rootin Tootin Luton Tapes, recorded in 1978. The album showcases the band's early arty side as well as its increasingly accessible pop genius.

Split Enz - Remember When by scruffy the yak

If that's not the kind of old-school rock your mother falls for, maybe she was a goth? The Cure's rereleasing Disintegration as a 3-disc set soon, here's a taste of one of the previously-unheard tunes care of Slicing Up Eyeballs.

Lastly, every Mom should listen to Jacqueline Susann, the new Pernice Brothers song (via Stereogum).

Pernice Brothers - Jacqueline Susann by scruffy the yak

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Guitar and Why The Hold Steady Matters

I found this cool Cinnamon Toast Crunch toy guitar out on the rainy boulevard this morning. I bet a couple of members of The Hold Steady had homemade guitars as toddlers.

The Hold Steady are releasing their new record, Heaven is Whenever, on Tuesday. Who cares? Well, Scruffy does, and so do thousands of music bloggers, record store geeks, and rock critics. At the last Hold Steady show, the academic fellow with me said, "Never seen so many aging hipsters in one place."
"What does an aging hipster look like?"
"Anyone past their twenties and still wearing Chuck Converse All-stars."
Hey, I still like my Chucks, and there were an inordinate amount of ageing hipsters in that crowd, no matter their choice of footwear.

But The Hold Steady doesn't deserve to be pigeon-holed as quick as my scholarly bud can elbow me in the ribs. Here's why HS really matters:

1. HS are a rock band, yet the band has managed to become popular without a closetful of gimmicks. In a world where for some people Nicklecrack, 3 Days Grace, and Theory of a Deadman pass for punch-a-fist-in-the-air rockingest without being metal, room to breathe is tough to find for a rock band that aspires to be a tad more than dumb rock. So we get bands that wear retro suits or duos that only wear red and refuse to pay for a bass player. All right, that kind of dress-up can be fun for artists and fan alike. But only guy in The HS that has worn anything other than walking-around clothes has been Franz Nicolay, the band's keyboard player.

Maybe Nicolay's waxed mustache and 30's gangster attire could in some way be HS's gimmick, but as entertaining as he was, Nicolay was not the frontman or the focus of the band. Maybe that's why he left. At any rate, he is no longer with the band.

Anyhow, The HS play rock music. Not precious, arty puzzles. There's no disco, no big obvious eighties rip-offs, no post-punk math-rock sound-collage damaged electronic meandering. That's darn refreshing. While fair comparisons have been made to older Springsteen, my fellow concert-goer yelled in my ear at the show, "Never knew there was so much Thin Lizzy in 'em!", referring to the nice fat riffing of guitarist Tad Kubler.

Rock Problems- The Hold Steady by ninasles

2. Singer/songwriter/guitarist/frontman Craig Finn can't sing. I mean, in the dvd that comes with the live album A Positive Rage, he admits it, saying that his vocals are basically his speaking voice amplified. It's really more animated and emotive than that, but Finn never tries to be Robert Plant, Chris Cornell or Steve Perry - hell, he isn't even soaring to Gord Downie levels. On the other hand, he ain't aping Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, or Leonard Cohen, either. Finn's just doing his own thing, and for his lyrics about risky relationships, Minneapolis spots, self-medicating, parties and dances and debauchery, the voice works fine. In fact, I've heard The Hold Steady cover Dylan, Springsteen, and Bryan Adams, and none of them hit the sweet spot like the HS's originals. It's true, he can't sing, but it's like a breath of fresh air to hear a guy use his vocal cords in a somewhat natural way, as opposed to all of those singers out there copying Ian Curtis, Robert Smith, or David Bowie, for example.

Hurricane J- The Hold Steady by ninasles

3. The band has a sense of humour. If you listen to the lyrics or see The Hold Steady live you can't miss it. These guys aren't trying to act cool, intense, or grim all of the time. Not like it's a comedy act, but there's enough artists out there taking themselves too seriously. Ending a song with a line like "I did a couple favours for these guys that looked like Tuscan raiders" is kinda nonsensical, but it works for me. The words "fun" and "funny" aren't bad words for The Hold Steady - take note, Thom Yorke. You too, Bono. Chris Martin calls his kids funny names, but I don't know if that counts. Hey, Billie Joe Armstrong!

4. Live, it's a Halleluleauh rave-up. It's a joyous experience, with Finn mouthing his own lyrics 2 or three times after he's just sung them, getting the crowd to clap double-time, grinning from ear to ear, without rock star posing; unless you think a balding guy with thick specs flailing his arms around, popping bugged-out eyes and smiling at everyone and everything is a rock star pose. Below is two live versions of the same song, the first has great sound, but in the second one you can hear the crowd singing along, which is something I think happens at a lot of shows. Since Finn doesn't really sing, it's easy to join along - it feels like a big inebriated party, whether it is one or not.

5. The lyrics. Not necessarily poetry, definitely not dumbed down on all counts, the lyrics are those of a guy from who loves music and thinks people of all flavours are interesting. Name-dropping Saint Joe Strummer, poet John Berryman, 7 Seconds, and Husker Du, titling a song Charlemagne in's all good.
"She said you're pretty good with words, but words won't save you
And they didn't, so he died" is a favourite.