Album Reviews

Wool On Wolves: Measures of Progress

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Independent


There have always been five songwriters toiling in Wool on Wolves but it’s taken this third album for the variety that implies to show up. The previous pair were given over to establishing a solid footing in classic folk-rock and wonderful though that is, it’s a crowded field. The Edmonton dudes have wisely chosen to step a little further down that road, while checking out a few side streets.


While song structures and arrangements lean towards more rock than folk, pop tunes and r’n’b horns show up for the crew’s partiest album to date. From the six-minute long, tension filled opener “Unsuspecting Ways”  dropping into the swinging, horn-driven single ‘Midnight Avenue’, WoW serve notice this ain’t gonna be like you think.


For one thing, they’ve done a good job of dodging the pitfall of having all the songs sound the same, while managing a consistency of sound.  Likewise with the song structures; word is the songs here are the product of collaborative piecings together, which smartly stick close to the band template of setting up melodic and rhythmic expectations, then doing a 180 and taking a song in a very different direction, sometimes taking yet another turn before resolution, as in ‘Unsuspecting Ways’.


No slaves to the pattern though, as they show with ‘Be The Change’, a straight up punchy rocker which surprises by being exactly that.

Hannah Georgas: Hannah Georgas

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Dine Alone


Hannah Georgas’ debut album This Is Good having made the Polaris long list, much is expected of this follow-up. Turns out it’s not so much follow-up as sharpish left turn.The overall vibe is upbeat, more assertive, a good match with the very forward-mixed electronics. This sounds like Georgas’ shot at cutting out some space for herself on the dance floor, a huge departure from This Is Good, which didn’t much care if you liked it.


Georgas has never ducked away from being labelled a ‘confessionalist’ and this batch amplifies that stance. The kick is how easily they morph into dance floor electro-bangers. For which the lady heaps much credit on Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh for making her musical wish come through. Said wish being a mashup of her signature confessionals and catchy electropop.


While not everything is dance floor ready, she’s managed a consistency of atmosphere with room for the stuff in her rear-view mirror.


On the gorgeous opener, Elephant, she sings of fearing her fate atop heavy, druggy synths, ‘Robotic’ is killer as a showcase for her fragile vocals and the skill at which she’s making the change in direction, blending the theatrical and wistful to powerful effect.

Crystal Castles: (111)

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Last Gang

Edgy electro pop duo ease up on the confrontation and get ready to go for the money. The end result is more shoot yourself in the foot than hit bound mainstream sound. Which is the biggest problem here; nothing wrong with changing up the sound but it's best done in small steps, unless you’re Neil Young.

That said, the team of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass is too inherently subversive to dismiss this sharp turn sideways as self-indulgence. Except for anything resembling a hook or catchy melody, everything we like about CC is here. The deep, dark conflicted electro groves, the horrific lyrics, menacing bass runs and Alice’s banshee wail are all on deck here. Just a little messed over is all. 

Especially, somebody’s in love with the reverb and it doesn’t do the vocal mix any favours. A shame, since Glass’s lyrics are a big part of the CC appeal and lines about selling your bones for ivory and protecting us from all the things she’s seen are enticements for digging through the reverb for the rest. 

Sonically, the manic mashups of the first two album is replaced by a more focused, more inhibited flow of beats which work well in some places ("Affection"), not so much in others ("Mercenary") and towards the end, sounds a litle same same.

The League of Notions: The League of Notions

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Treaty Records

A joyous shambolic noise with sonic links to rock’n’roll satirists from Frank Zappa to the Barenaked Ladies, Talking Heads to Rich Aucoin. The self-described East Side guys of TLON are Corey Cosineau (gtrs, vcls), Kashiro Figueroa (bs) and Phil Hill (drms, percs, whistle, vcls) and they’re working their own little corner of the zany aesthetic like manic street preachers.

Which explains the album’s 17 tracks and its helter-skelter street party vibe. Beneath the boogie, there’s no mistaking they’re knowingly dancing in the darkness of urban disaffection. If there’s connective tissue here, this is it.

From the opening one-two of ‘The Park In The Dark’ and ‘Jar Food Man’ to the close out pair ‘Living On The Sidewalk’ and ‘Hope’, the collection’s spattered with the tears of a clown. A dancing clown.

Despite its 17 tracks, the album never overstays its welcome thanks to the speedy nature of the tunes. It’s not quite gone in 60 seconds but that aesthetic prevails. If you don’t get this one in 2.28 (average song length here) no worries, another quick tickler’s coming right along. Sooner or later you’ll hear something that’ll connect with you.

Jon Patterson: New Beginnings

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Submitted by Don Graham

Singer/songwriter Jon Patterson is that warm coat on a cold day. His songs are personal accounts that everyone can relate to. He sings and writes with the voice of experience but with a touch of innocence that shows his vulnerable side and makes it easy to connect and relate to his music. To say that Jon took the scenic route to get to his first CD recorded would be an understatement but it was well worth the wait.

Jon grew up in Ontario, in the blue collar town of Oshawa, and has carved out a life consisting of music, writing and being a father to three boys. All of this has formed the man that Jon is today and a listen to his CD ‘New Beginnings’ will give a great look at that life while relating a lot of his experiences to your own. This album is well thought out, well produced and masterfully sung.

Jon’s dad was a military man so the opening cut ‘Hero’, is a natural for him to sing and write. This song springboarded Jon into the military limelight allowing him to perform at many military functions and troop gatherings. It is probably his best known tune but when you listen to the rest of the album you discover there is much more to the man.

Jerry Leger & the Situation: Some Folks Know

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Maple


Beaches bar circuit mainstay moves to Hipster Cenreal and finds his voice. Or something much like that. He still has that countrified Dylanesque thing going on so it must be the songs that have changed up.


They’re still flavoured with pedal steel and piano, framed in roots rock and often emotionally ambivalent. This batch is carefully crafted to show off Leger at his best and has the feel of a break out album. Recorded live-off-the-floor with T.Dot roots rock mainstay Tim Bovaconti producing, Leger and crew blow through a 12 tune set with a fair recreation of their flat out rockin’ live shows.


Given that this is album #6 from the hard-gigging Leger, expectations were high among the fan base and dude does not disappoint.There’s a wide screen quality to Leger’s narratives, given life by his voice. Within Leger’s self-imposed urban country parameters, it’s an adaptable set of pipes enabling him to slip in and out of character without disrupting the flow.


Be it the pumping ‘Old Soldier’, the jangle pop of ‘Don’t You Fret’ or the paint-peeling candour of ‘Filthy Mouth’, Leger is right there, vocally shape-shifting to make you a believer. Which, after you’ve heard his amazing duet with Serena Ryder on the down tempo ‘All Over Again’, should do the trick.


Dude’s such a commanding singer and The Situation such a tight unit, his axemanship is often overlooked.. Whether on acoustic or electric, Leger is a seasoned, hold your attention guitarist, the kind you need to be to thrive in the bar wars.

A Shining Night for Anti-Bullying Scars That You Can’t See

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada
Photo: Frankie Hart, Lisa Hartt, Bobby Cohen, Don Gaham, Zita DaSilva


On Thursday, November 15th, on the shores of Lake Ontario at the Balmy Beach Club in Toronto, a Bullying Awareness night titled ‘Scars That You Can’t See’ was front and centre. Singer/songwriter Don Graham put a call out to his friends and fellow performers to put on a show to aid a great cause, a bullying prevention concert/fundraiser. With the staff of the company that manages his career, Entertainment Music Group, Graham assembled a cast of singer/songwriter talent from different genres of music and put on a fine display of caring and human kindness. The talent ranged in age and diversity and musical styles with seasoned performers and up and coming stars of the future.


Lisa HarttLisa HarttThe evening was based on a Graham/DaSilva song ‘Scars That You Can’t See’ with a chorus of “ Sticks and stones may break their bones, but broken bones will heal…but the words we use when we abuse, leave scars that you can’t see.”

The Dan Bodanis Trio – The Last Set

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Submitted by Bill McDonald

I recently spent an evening at the Azure Restaurant listening to the Dan Bodanis Trio featuring Dan Bodanis on drums, Bernie Senensky on piano, and Steve Wallace on bass. By itself, this isn’t unique. I have been there almost every week of their remarkable four year, three night-a-week engagement. The difference was that this Saturday was their last performance at Azure.

All good things come to an end. Whatever ancient, unknown bard first penned that phrase certainly got it right. But that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in a brief moment of reminiscence before time inevitably marches on.

Throughout this gig, these incredible musicians have spent hundreds of evenings playing thousands of wonderful renditions of jazz standards. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with their talents. Every evening was filled with mastery, and some moments that went beyond. They would probably cite times when they may have got a bit derailed. But that is the yin and yang of improvisational playing – particularly when measured against the bar of their expectation.

Inevitably, due to other commitments, individual band members would need to arrange for a substitute. The “A-listers” that they drew from read like a “Who’s Who” of Canadian jazz – Terry Clarke, Don Thompson, Dave Young, Reg Schwager, Kieran Overs, Dave Restivo, Jim Vivian, Lee Wallace, Pat Collins, Adrean Farrugia, Nancy Walker, and others of this ilk. On one occasion, legendary sax player, Lee Konitz, sat in with the band.

Ladyhawk: No Can Do

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Triple Crown


On this one, lead dude Duffy Driediger sounds done with the Crazy Horse roots rock thing and ready to find a new sound. The new sound is the old sounds of the Nineties.


The Van band lineup’s yer classic quartet of Driediger(lead vcls, gtr), Sean Hawryluk(bd, vcls), Darcy Hancock(ld. Gtr, vcls) and Ryan Peters(drums, vcls) and their comradehood in the B.C. bar wars shines through in the performances. Consequently, as change ups go, this one gets it rIght more often than not. It helps that some classic rock hooks and the harmonies ae still in place to help the transition.


Which may be why opener ‘Footprints’ manages a nod to grunge pioneers and genre bridgers Velvet UndergrOund via a letter perfect VU guitar intro coupled to a Reed-ian melodic sensibility. Also possibly why The Pixies get referenced a lot during Ladyhawk’s run at the Nineties.


Want garage grind? Go to ‘You Read My Mind’. For a touch of grunge-pop avec harmonies you’ll want ‘Bedbugs’  Speaking of which, it’s one of the tracks where Driediger gets to have his cake etc.


Known to be aN acerbic observer of his situation, on this one he drops tellling lines such as ‘There’s no hope, this is a Terminal City/But don’t they make it pretty?/Don’t they make it nice?” in a thinly veiled stab at Vancouver’s penchant for hiding social disarry ‘neath sunny skies. The beauty part is the music sounds like vintage nihilist grunge, so let’s hear it for the boy for staying on mission.

So Many Days: Julie Doiron

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Aporia

On this first album for Toronto-based label Aporia, Julie Doiron cements her status as the A-Coast’s indie folk queen.  We go to Julie for meditations on the simultaneous beauty, fragility and unpredictability of life and this un’ has them aplenty.

F’r instance, "Last Night I Lay in Bed", starts off as a simply put love ballad steeped in the moment which plays a dark card when she intones: "It scares me to think about losing you," delivered with a scary intensity. The emotional checks and balances inherent in the day to day are a Doiron strength which puts her observational style some way ahead.

Doiron's songs are gently direct, more longjohns than frilly underwear, written with entirely plausible lyrics. The combination makes for material which leaves haunting and long lasting impressions. And in the case of "Homeless", downright harrowing.

Doiron's burned out vocal augmented by mournful bass runs combine to bleak out a confessional that’s a peak moment. Opening with "I used to be good," Doiron plunges into a tale of the debauched and bitter life of a narrator who knows all too well what she’s let go."To all who love me," she sings, "I am sorry."

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