Evan Miles

Story: Jaimie Vernon

Since the ubiquitous homogenizing of the music industry post-Napster, there has been a raging debate about the need and/or demand for CDs. After putting out the call in the last two months for CDs to review in this column, I am happy to report that the demand is still there; in fact,  a CD manufacturing associate of mine reports that independent CD manufacturing is still GROWING (the only downturn has been in the number of re-prints  of artist titles over the long-term). Needless to say, I’m swamped with product. We hereby present a slight reformatting of my weekly reviews to include news about Canadian music releases as well.

EVAN MILES “Conductor”
I initially struggled with the packaging on this release - there’s no website address on the sleeve and the MAPL logo incorrectly indicates that the music and lyrics are Canadian but the artist and the producer are not [note to all aspiring musicians: these details are important!]. However, I was pleased to discover this 6-song EP is a slick acoustic workout with sparse but tasty arrangements that teeters between demo and commercial release.

 The songwriting is spectacular and thought provoking on tunes like “Before Rock Was Dead”, “Here We Are” and “Found You”. These hook-driven tunes have the potential to draw a wider audience as they fall into Bruno Mars territory. Miles’ vocals seem a little plaintive in spots, but there’s no denying his passion. 

The standout track is “Trust” featuring a vocal assist from electric guitarist Sam Taylor.

DAVE STEPHENS “Time Will Tell”

After two albums crafted from his home-base in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dave Stephens packed his bags and relocated to Long Beach, California where the perpetual sun and career opportunities have allowed him to grow musically into, this, his third solo CD.

‘Time Will Tell’ could be considered a minor independent concept album masterpiece. This is no run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter album. It is a big-budget sounding ELO meets Coldplay meets Arcade Fire meets Muse train-spotting sonic joyride. It wends its way from orchestrated bombast on the title track through power pop jogs on “Tragedy”, “Josephine”, “You Are Mine, I Am Yours”, and the Roy Orbison-meets-Fab Four “Falling Away”.

On the more introspective songs like “Dealing with the Past” and “Peace of Mind” Stephens recalls the pop melancholia of fellow Vancouverites Tom Hooper & Kevin Kane (The Grapes of Wrath) and even The Skydiggers  particularly on the beautifully brittle “More Than Me”.

To that end, the emotionally raw and haunting “It’s Not a Dream” shows Stephens’ depth as songwriter/performer and might be the most artistically honest track on the record. Looking forward to Stephens’ next musical growth spurt!

More Cool Music:

* Travis Hatcher sent me a ragtag package in the mail called 'Dark Nights' that looks like a demo, but plays like one of the best singer-songwriter manifestos since Ron Sexsmith's opening volley. This is a bone-dry, pristine, in-your-face intimate home recording with all vocals and instrumentation by Hatcher.
The disc contains fourteen songs brimming with emotion and sincerity that is elevated above average by Hatcher's pure folk/pop voice. Publishers and record labels take note.

* Funny man and Pembroke radio personality Rick Wharton passed along Andrea Wappel’s latest EP which contains four hybrid alt-country/pop original tunes by Wappel and refreshing pseudo-Gospel readings of “House of the Rising Sun” and “Nights In White Satin” (; Rick also reminded me that there’s an exceptional  ZON re-issue of their first two albums – ‘Astral Projector’ and ‘Back Down To Earth’ – available from European label Escape Music out there for all you 1970s fans of Pomp Rock; Lastly, I got to hear some stuff by Daydreams for Dollars who are cross pollinating Live! and Third Eye Blind. With the right label/producer behind them they could turn these songs into modern rock gold.

NEXT WEEK: Kittie, Klaatu and other acts that don’t start with the letter ‘K’.

Send your CDs w/bios to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9