Reviews

Lightning Dust: Fantasy

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Jagjaguwar Records

This third outing from Amber Webber and Joshua Wells of Black Mountain's side project is kinda surprisingly, just ok. Mostly because the pair have chosen the occasion to get into into the stripped down guitar and emo synths thang. For why? Since that is one crowded bandwagon and the mere act of being seen on it could cool the BM fan base. Especially following in the wake of the challenging doom folk of previous album ‘Infinite Light”.

The stated manifesto is minimalism and they’re barely kidding. Trouble is, without orchestration many of the songs sound unfinished or lacking a driving force. So sonically, not a lot to get excited about but some of the song structures are interesting in the way they're built up with many layers which on occasion do take you somewhere different as on ‘Mirror’.

The prize in the ring here is Weber’s nuanced vocals, with loads of finesse at both the high and low ends, capable of making you a believer even when the lyrics are all ambiggy Too often all the heavy lifting is left to her to raise up sketchy tunes, including leadoff single ‘Diamond.’  It all comes together brilliantly on  ‘Agatha’, with Weber’s emotion-drenched take soaring over sparse Wurlitzer piano and weepy strings that subtly fall apart into a bracing dissonant mashup at the end. That apart, the rest is really just ok.

James Lizzard

Sonny and the Sunsets: Antenna to the Afterworld

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Polyvinyl

This wacky concept album plays like the bastard child of Space Oddity Bowie and a very authentic roots garage band. No question the weirdest one of the year so far, in the very best way. Who else dares to introduce a narrative bridging outer space and alien life with the down to earth supernatural, the everyday freakish and visits from the dead. Sonny’s canny enough not to craft the music too literally to the lyric with the result that the thing’s full of cool twist and inversions. This crew’s genre hopping ways are the envy of many; when they take on a style, which has so far included r’n’b, folk, garage, psych pop, country and reggae (yes), the results are invariably impressive.

Most of those show up for this party but for Sonny, no matter where he may roam, it remains all about the song. So instead of the glorious genre mashups that implies, each one gets its just deserts even though synthesizers show up often. F’r instance "Green Blood" is about Sonny’s hots for an alien android with a cyborg husband but as appropriate for any take on young love, Sonny decks it out in space pop drag. Similarly, ‘Primitive’ lives up to its title both musically and lyrically ("I love the moon/ I don't know why.") but it’s coming from a place of heartfelt nonchalance, if that’s a thing.

Eagles Live at the Air Canada Centre Toronto Canada

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Submitted by Michael Williams
Photo: The Eagles Live at the ACC

Now being from Cleveland, Ohio, Joe Walsh, James Gang are part of my DNA and “The Eagles to me are pre Joe Walsh and post Joe Walsh. They started hanging out on record on ”So What” and joining him live on “You Can’t Argue With a Sick Mind” , Help Me through the Night Live’, with the Eagles on backing vocal is a classic live track that sold me .

In University my girlfriend had Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel “and The Eagles “Desperado" while I was a Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Howdy Moon fan. I listened to anything that smelled like it came from California.

The Eagles “Desperado”, the ultimate hurting song and that soulful vocal thing like in “Witchy Woman”.

It was giving something I could feel…a Louisiana, Cajun Redbone Tony Joe White kind of  black swamp funk feel.The vocals were constructed in 100% Blue Eyed Soul or as JD Souther might say “white rhythm and blues” a la  Temptations, The Persuasions, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, a Motown Thing from California ! As a DJ I would always play The Eagles “One of These Nights” with The Spinners, that’s how soulful it was! I dug it and went for the whole ride from then on!

Mavis Staples, Never Out of Time with “One True Vine”

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Submitted by Michael Williams

When love spreads through song, it is infectious and inspiring, and summoned courage on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement.

It has been 40 years since I travelled the southern part of America. I was and am a member of Up with People (cast of 1973). We were a cast of 150 people, representing 40 countries, who toured worldwide, singing songs of hope, peace, love and respect for all. We performed in or around Rabun Gap, Georgia, a stone’s throw from the infamous “Stone Mountain” where the modern Ku Klux Klan was reborn in 1915. The Up with People show was held in a church on a Sunday afternoon. This was the only show of our tour where we did not stay overnight with host families in the area! Are you getting the picture yet?

Half way through the performance the fire department came walking down the aisles in full bomb and hazmat gear with flash lights. The police were there too. A bomb threat had been called in!  No expected it. Well, maybe the Black members of the cast did. The diversity that was Up with People did not go down well in the south; it still doesn’t. We left the church for an hour or two while they cleared it out, checked it with dogs and said we could go back to finish the show. We went back into the church, with smiles on our faces, songs in our hearts, music and the message our only defense.  We finished the show.

Gold and Youth: Beyond Wilderness

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Arts & Crafts

Signed to Arts and Crafts on the strength of a trio of EPs working the synth pop street, there was much anticipation surrounding this release from the Vantown quartet. Accordingly A&C put together the slick production team of Colin Stewart, Gareth Jones and Damian Taylor to lay some big time shine on the tracks. So, no surprises then but a heaping helping of the sound that brought them here.

Which isn’t necessarily the sound they started out with, as the core members came from scrappy indie rockers Raccoons so the synth thing is a new direction for this crew. That said, they’ve embraced the back to the Eighties synth powered devolution enthusiastically.

With its swooping synths, spare percussion loops and smart, hooky guitar licks, opener ‘City of Quartz’ sets the table perfectly for the uptempo side of what’s to come. The slow jam side’s best executed on ‘Tan Lines’ and ‘Cut Lip’, ambient soundscapes as backdrop for frontman Matthew Lyall’s nicely nuanced vocals. Of which the band has a hot hand in female vocalist Louise Burns, dropping a winning turn somewhere between Katie Stelmanis and vintage Estero on the solid ‘Jewel”, hooking up with Lyall to create the edgy and dramatic album closer ‘Time to Kill.’

The presence of some sketchy melodies and playbook riffing among the 11 songs make for an uneven set but the good stuff is good enough to make this ‘un a playlister.

Lenny Stoute

White Lung: Sorry

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Deranged

Every year at this time we’re treated to a wave of upbeat, bouncy, light-hearted, walkin’ on sunshiney music from what’s characterized as summer albums. Well, this isn’t one of those. This one’s summery as road rash from dropping your chopper at speed, summery as waking up in pissed jeans.

If you know these VanTown baad gurlz, you know this is how they always roll. Nasty, unrepentant, with a subversive sense of fun.  And on 'Sorry' they be rolling like a mofo 18-wheeler. Ok, like a crack-fuelled 18-wheeler because White Lung deals in a finger-bleeding speed punk few bands can match. 'Sorry' offers you some of the best of the genre in a sizzling 19 minutes and it’s tres important that it’s out on small but increasingly influential hardcore label Deranged, which put out the earliest material from local genre biggies 'Fucked Up'.

The instrumental firestorm puts the melodic and listenability factor squarely on the shoulders of vocalist Mish Ways and she’s up for it. She’s been refashioning the punk vocalist framework for sometime and the resulting snarl’n’ insinuate style brings immediacy to the songs. Yeah, the comparisons abound, L7, Hole and like that but like UK’s Savages, this band is carving its initals into the flesh of the past.

Dustin Bentall & The Smokes: You Are An Island

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Aporia

It’s probably not fair to say Dustin Bentall’s growing into his skin but we just said it anyway. You Are An Island is being positioned as the ‘sister’ album to 2012’s Orion EP, carrying on and expanding on the alt-rock sound, which showed up to party on that one.

Central to all that is the input from Bentall’s hard touring band, which includes stellar performances from Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother) and fiddler Kendel Carson (Belle Starr, Outlaw Social), The other heavy factor in the mix, the stylistic input from producer Ryan Dahle, who reportedly was able to steer the band in a more inclusive direction from the standard country thang.

The result’s a tougher, more flamboyant and breezing down a Prairie highway kind of album. Exactly the aesthetic you’d expect from a road warrior, studded with quality lyrics in which Bentall becomes totally invested. Just check current single “Shine” and “Dreaming Of A Nightmare”, two of dude’s best vocal workouts yet.
 
In breaking away from his past, Dusty and crew have fashioned an album which breathes fresh air into the alt country backroom, just in time to keep the entire genre from suffocating. No small thanks to a more involved rhythm section and the whiskey-soaked, punk-dusted fiddlin’ of Kendal Carson.

As dude reminds us with not too much tongue in cheek, from where he’s at it’s a “Pretty Good Life.”

James Lizzard

Daniel Matto Groovin’ with The DMQ

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

As an instrumentalist, Daniel has performed throughout Australia, Sweden and Finland in big bands and other ensembles. Daniel then realized his true musical passion was singing and went on to study voice at the Australian Conservatory of Music in Sydney.

As a jazz vocalist, Daniel started a lounge-styled band, The Martini Orchestra, one that mixed original songs with tunes from the likes of Burt Bacharach and Sinatra. His vocal chops soon caught the attention of some of Australia’s leading jazz musicians, including internationally-acclaimed pianist Dave MacRae and singer Joy Yates, who became something of a mentor. He went on to perform with Yates and MacRae at various  high-profile jazz festivals in Australia and New Zealand.
When Daniel migrated to Halifax in 2007, the land Down Under waved goodbye to one of its most promising young jazz vocalists. Daniel now calls Halifax home, performing regularly in clubs and festivals on the East Coast. Word of his charm as a performer quickly spread and as a result he has performed as guest soloist with Symphony Nova Scotia and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

MOSQUITO-B Ramping Up For 6th UK Tour

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Submitted by Alistair Sutherland

On May 16, the Quebec trio Mosquito-B stormed the Hard Rock Café in downtown Toronto, Canada, for a two-hour set of unstoppable power-pop and melodic rock. Quebecers are passionate about culture, equally passionate about music, and extremely passionate about Mosquito-B. The band arrived in Toronto with a busload of fans who made a 10-hour trek straight through from Quebec city to support their local heroes. This was made possible due to support and goodwill from Renée Ouellet and her team at the Bureau du Québec à Toronto.

The band is the brainchild of renaissance man, Dan Moisan. Published author. Songwriter. Musician. Recording / performing artist. Advertising / marketing wiz. Entrepreneur. Dan is all of these and he could have just as easily succeeded at stand-up comedy; He may joke around on stage, though when the music starts, the game changes.

They have a reputation of commanding encores as an opening act  - which is very rare, if not unique. And from the first chords to the last fading note, this phenomenon was easy to understand.

Austra: Olympia

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Paper Bag

Austra’s debut album Feel It Break dropped with a bang and went straight to the head of the electro-pop class, propelled by Katie Stelmanis’ semi-operatic, Kate Bushian vocals. Having impacted in Europe and the US with that one, no question that the follow-up would build on the sound that got them there.

On Olympia, Austra sounds much more like the sextet it is, amply fleshing out every song, more inclined to go for it when it’s called for. This is good, since most songs are aimed squarely at putting bods on the dance floor. For evidence look no further than the stellar trio of album opener ‘What We Done’, the classic electro funk of ‘Painful Like’ and the glorious jam out of  ‘Annie (Oh Muse, You)’.

While overall the album is all about bustin’ out, Stelmanis likes to go deep with her lyrics and perspective. Best moments on that front come from the muted and reflective ‘Home’, about a lover who doesn’t come there, ‘I Don’t Care (I’m A Man)’, a dark revelation of  “quiet indoor fighting” and album highlight and current single “Painful Like”, the band pumping out tight, propulsive techno soul while Katie wails over top, "I held you in my underwear/Someone might see, but I don't care!"

Which pretty much nails the brilliantly executed ‘dancing in defiance’ aesthetic of Stelmanis and crew. Like its predecessor Olympia too is bound straight for the Polaris short list.

Lenny Stoute

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