BTW- Entire Cities, Victoria + Jean, Braids, Crystal Shawanda, Andy Shauf, CMW Roundup, Danny Marks

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Just out from Entire Cities, a Toronto-based musician/art collective, a visual accompaniment for their EP Rock Chapel . The video clocks in just under 20 minutes and showcases all six tracks from the EP with plenty of visual elements to keep your drawn to the melodies and affecting songs. It's a self-described "visual journey through the six-song release that stars Aragoza dancing by fires, through forests and in fields. Animated illustrations are superimposed atop the performance footage, adding an additional layer of motion to the already movement-filled clip."

Entire Cities are a Canadian indie art party that's been going on for ten years. Formed as a loose collective in Toronto a decade ago, the band has included or collaborated with 50+ dancers, singers, musicians and artists, putting on live concerts that explode with confetti, streamers, feathers & light shows whether playing big stages like Lee’s Palace, or a house party in St. John.

Victoria+JeanVictoria+JeanFull disclosure, I have a thing for the OTT style that happens to European reviews when translated into English. Like this, f''rinstance "There is a raw grind but an inherent control. Mixing a combination of dirty blues, heavy riffs and brooding, melodic vocals, Swedish duo Victoria+Jean are set to unleash a barrel of madness onto the world." Their power and force must be seen to be believed."

Behind the hype though, Victoria+Jean have more than a little something good going on. It's all right there in the Swedish-Belgian avant-gritty-pop duo's debut album Divine Love. The album features , and .

Meeting each other was a catalyst for greater things for Victoria+Jean. Victoria, playing solo and in bands, was starting to believe that she would never make the music she loves. Things changed when she met Jean, and the two became Victoria+Jean, creatively and romantically.

The album's themes reflect their own shared lives and experiences. As well as the thread of divine love, the transient nature of their existence - of different cities and cultures - is clear. Victoria was born in Sweden, grew up in London before moving to Paris. An exploration of belonging and identity are all present.

The sleeve of Divine Love mentions some of today's greatest sound engineers, those mysterious sorcerers who toiled on some of their favorite records, including John Parish (P J Harvey), Ian Caple (Tricky, Tindersticks, Bashung), Christoffer Berg (Depeche Mode, The Knife, Fever Ray) and Rob Kirwan (U2, Depeche Mode, The Horrors), and the high priestess of mastering, Mandy Parnell. An eastern wind blows over the artwork in the form of Oleg Dou, an up and coming Russian contemporary artist.

Their love of blues-rock is evident in the brooding Why Won't You and Takes You Like A Rose, while Your Baby Don't Know Me is an explosive four minutes of fierceness. Throughout Divine Love there is a contrast between hard and soft but also within the songs, like Where We Belong, where serenity is punctured by bursts of punchy electric guitar and rising, powerful vocals. Härligt Sverige is a shimmering and occasionally unnerving ode to the extremes of beauty and nature that shows the contradicting emotions in Victoria's relationship with her birth country.

BraidsBraidsAnother avant-pop unit Braids, has just unleashed a new 19-minute EP: “Companion”. Braids’ new EP is their first new music since last year's JUNO Award-winning and Polaris Music Prize-shortlisted Deep In The Iris. Deep In The Iris launched several worldwide tours and garnered the Montreal-based band international critical acclaim for their pristine, intricately ornamented electronic pop music, and this new EP further explores the sonic vistas introduced on the album.

The band completed the tracks on Companion during a burst of creative energy this past August, burrowing deeper into the sonic world they mapped out on the album while digging into new modes of expression and composition. Far from being outtakes or B-sides, the EP presents a beguiling study of extremes —from joy to disaffection, thunderous explosion to delicate introspection— as a cohesive whole. From the rhythmically provocative and melodically supple "Joni" — which conjures a dream meeting of Bjork and Aphex Twin— to the nakedly powerful minimalist arrangement on "Companion" and the patient blossoming of "Sweet World", the songsdemonstrates Braids' ability to fuse emotionally powerful material with gorgeous, unerring production sensibilities. The Companion release is accompanied by a gorgeous new video for the EP’s title track, and the band is thrilled to have worked once again with Vancouver-based director Kevan Funk, who also helmed last year’s “Taste” and “Miniskirt” videos. Funk is well known for his music videos for artists such as The Zolas and Wake Owl, as well as acclaimed indie films Everything All At Once, Yellowhead, and Destroyer.

Braids is preparing to take the Companion material on the road for three months of tour dates in North America and Europe. The band is scheduled to play a number of truly monumental music events, some of the biggest of their career, and, indeed, some of the larger worldwide outlets for contemporary pop music today. Interspersed with club dates in major cities, the band will perform at major festivals including Britain’s legendary Glastonbury Festival, the Wayhome festival located in the bucolic Ontario countryside, British Columbia’s massive Pemberton Festival, and the Calgary Folk Music Festival. The dates will wrap with three nights on home turf at much-loved Montreal venue Casa del Popolo.

Crystal ShawandaCrystal ShawandaCrystal Shawanda grew up on the Wikwemikong reserve on an island in Ontario. Her parents raised her on Country music and taught her to sing and play guitar, but it was her oldest brother who introduced her to the blues. He would hang out in the basement cranking Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Etta James, and Crystal would sit at the top of the stairs, straining to hear those soulful sounds. There was a part of her that often wondered if she would ever be able to sing like that. And when no one was home, Crystal would practice singing the blues.

She learned early on, by observing her family, that music was like cheap therapy. That’s what the blues is all about: releasing and healing. While she was secretly pining to be a blues mama, out on stage it was Patsy and Loretta. She started performing country when she was six and started getting paid gigs when she was 10, playing on every stage she could.

Crystal’s dad was a truck driver and they started taking frequent trips to Nashville when she was 12. At 13 she recorded her first album and moved away from home that same year to attend a music school. Crystal got restless, however, and dropped out at 16 to move to Nashville. She didn’t know anyone but was determined, so she spent days playing every stage she could and busking in between.

During a chance meeting with a well respected music executive, Crystal was told, “I just don’t know if Native Americans make sense in country music. I don’t know if fans would be receptive and I wouldn’t even know how to market you.” Crystal tried to take the critique with composure, but she ended up moving back home to her reserve and abandoning her dream. Shawanda set out on a dark, self-destructive path, but no matter what she always found herself back in front of the microphone.

She finally came to terms with what was bothering her. “If I was out of tune. I could take voice lessons,” she reflects. “If my song was bad, I could write another. But I couldn’t change the colour of my skin.” So Shawanda moved back to Nashville one more time with a mission to prove the executive wrong. She paid her dues, playing at Tootsies Orchid Lounge six days a week, three shifts a day, and managed to build a buzz and land a production deal with Scott Hendricks. She was later signed by Joe Galante to a record deal with RCA Records, Joe had heard Crystal cover B.B. King and Janis Joplin. This venture produced a top 20 song on country radio and the highest selling album by a Native American in BDS history.

After this, she found herself feeling like a fish out of water. She says, “I so wanted to be what everyone wanted me to be, I lost myself along the way.” So Crystal took some time off and, one day while watching the news and feeling overwhelmed by the headlines, she walked into her music room, picked up her guitar and wrote “The Whole World’s Got the Blues.” This was the start of her first blues album.

”The songs just fell out of me and throughout the recording it was like setting my voice free,” she says. “I can’t help but feel like I’m home, no longer holding back.”

Crystal’s album is a modern take on the blues, deeply rooted with heart-wrenching laments and catchy rump-shakers. It’s where the north meets the south and captures the resilience of the human spirit, much like the way Crystal does. Her vibe is reminiscent of a time gone by, serviced by a powerful voice that never fails, pure and gritty at the same time. Crystal Shawanda puts it all out there Friday, May 20, at Hugh's Room in Toronto.

Edmonton band Royal Tusk was born through a shared love for the craft of music, and a natural chemistry that manifests itself in the band’s songs and in its fiery live performances. Daniel Carriere and Sandy MacKinnon (bass) spent 12 years in beloved JUNO-nominated Edmonton band, Ten Second Epic and knew they weren’t done making great music. They rounded up Quinn Cyrankiewicz (guitar), Calen Stuckel (drums) and Mike James (keyboard/guitars) for a jam session, and just 10 months later the band headed to New York to record Mountain with Gus Van Go (Hollerado, Whitehorse, The Stills). “Shadow of Love” and "Smoke Rings" were breakout tracks off Mountain and both saw significant radio-play. These singles helped earn Royal Tusk a 2015 SIRIUSXM Emerging Artist of the Year nomination, an “artist of the month" nod from Sonic 102.9, and a short-list spot for CBC’s 2014 Rising Star Award.

Now out from the Edmonton rock quintet, debut LP, DealBreaker. Check out first single, , and new track, Curse The Weather.

Andy ShaufAndy ShaufToday, fans of acclaimed Saskatchewan singer-songwriter Andy Shauf can watch him perform selections from his immensely imaginative new album, The Party, on CBC’s First Play Live.Set for release on May 20, Shauf masterfully creates a cast of memorable and unique characters within The Party. They show up “Early To The Party”, reveal secrets (“To You”) or try to reveal nothing (“The Magician”). In “a city the size of a dinner plate,” everyone knew the guy who keeled over after smoking what he promised would be his last pack of cigarettes (“Alexander All Alone”). There’s the girl dancing by herself in the middle of the room, with the “Eyes Of Them All” upon her. One moment you’re dancing with someone who bears an uncanny resemblance to your ex (“Martha Sways”), and later slagging your best friend as way of endearing yourself to his recently dumped ex (“Quite Like You”). All of this is set to ornate arrangements of fuzzed-out guitars, string sections, clarinets and dreamy synths, all draped over delicate piano, acoustic guitars and rainy-day drums.

The Party is not exactly a concept record, but it was a way for the singer-songwriter to get out of his own head. An after-party record, more like it. Or for the hangover the next day, when only Shauf’s songs can make any sense of the emotionally-charged scenarios that played out the night before. When The Party was over, dudehad no regrets, even if its characters have more than a few. The Saskatchewan-based songwriter gained international attention with his previous album, The Bearer of Bad News. NPR called that record one of “2015's most breathtaking albums” and “an appropriately titled collection of mostly grim tales about small town drug addicts, murderous lovers and other weary underachievers.”

Eagles Of Death MetalEagles Of Death MetalAndy Shauf is currently on tour in Europe today with The Lumineers and will return to North American with case/lang/veirs in June including stops in Victoria and Vancouver. Shauf will also appear at The Winnipeg Folk Festival and Hillside Festival in July

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES

Jun 09 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom w/ Son Little
Jun 22 - San Diego, CA - Humphrey’s **
Jun 23 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre **
Jun 25 - Saratoga, CA - The Mountain Winery **
June 28 - Victoria, BC - Royal Theatre **
June 29 - Vancouver, BC - Queen Elizabeth Theatre **
Jun 30 - Seattle, WA - Woodland Park Amphitheatre **

Duchess SaysDuchess SaysCMW 2016 played out in front of a reported 129, 000 fans and among the many notable performances were two sold out LIGHTS’s shows, Skepta, Eagles of Death Metal, Bob Mould and Collective Soul all hitting peak capacity. Other worthy highlights included buzzworthy performances by Dilly Dally, Nao, Fat White Family, Black Lips, Wild Nothing, Tegan and Sara, Shawn Hook, Wintersleep, The Strumbellas, Busty and The Bass, Duchess Says,

Album of the week comes from homegrown blues supremo Danny Marks and it's really something special. The album's Cities In Blue and it's remarkable not only for its superb musical content but as well its clever and informative concept. Danny MarksDanny MarksCities In Blue comes out of a TV project of the same name Marks did involving a pilgrimage to all the major blues flashpoints in the US. The musical mirror image is Danny's 11 originals, each partaking of and reflecting the essence of a location's contributions to the blues. While titles such as 'Kansas City Shout', 'Memphis Got Soul' and 'Heading Down to New Orleans' may sound self-explanatory, 'tain't necessarily so. In tackling the latter, rather than relying on the more mainstreams N'Awlins sounds, Marks squeezes in just about every style that's ever come out of the Big Easy. Kansas City Shout's an ode to that generation of KC bluesmen that included Big Joe Turner and Wilbert Harrison and that's how it goes y'all, with the mark of Danny in the DNA of every song and not a hound in the lot. It's a rollicking and highly informative stroll through the history of the blues with the exemplary Danny Marks as your tour guide. The booklet detailing the genesis of the songs is alone worth the price of admission.